Fresh off their most dominating win of the season last night against the Cavaliers, the Sixers step right back on the court against a different level of competition. More than perhaps any other opponent, the Toronto Raptors have been an enormous thorn in the 76ers’ side. Out of kindness, I won’t recount what happened in last year’s playoffs on the way to Toronto’s first NBA title. Then, in the first meeting between the teams this season two weeks ago in Toronto, the Raptors held Joel Embiid scoreless, sending the Sixers back to America with a 101-96 defeat. I can’t imagine the Sixers having more motivation than to get this win this evening.
On the plus side, the Sixers now have home-court advantage, something that clearly has tangible benefits for Philadelphia with a 11-0 record at home. However, the Raptors do have the rest advantage, having been off since their loss at home Thursday night to the Rockets. One of the side benefits of grinding Cleveland into dust last night, though, is that the starters were out of the game before the end of the third quarter. Ben Simmons’ 26 minutes were the most logged by any member of the starting lineup.
Speaking of Simmons, the star point guard is coming off the best offensive performance of his career, having dropped a career-high 34 points, including his second career 3-pointer. Brett Brown said of Ben Simmons after last night’s game, “You can pass this along to his agent, his family, his friends and him: I want one 3-point shot a game minimum.” We’ll see how much that instruction sticks, but a more aggressive version of Ben in all facets of the game offensively would certainly be a boon for Philadelphia.
While Josh Richardson will once again be out with a hamstring injury, Ben Simmons said post-game yesterday that it would be good to have Embiid back out there against the Raptors, indicating Joel will be returning to action after sitting out the Cleveland tilt. I’m sure Embiid would like to expunge the memory of that scoreless outing, but even on a bigger scale, he needs to solve the defensive conundrum that is Marc Gasol, particularly if the Sixers are going to run up against the Raptors again in the 2020 NBA playoffs.
Two weeks ago, Pascal Siakam put an explanation point on Toronto’s victory with a game-ending dunk. Let’s hope that’s the last good memory the Raptors have of facing the Sixers for quite some time.
Who: Philadelphia 76ers vs. Toronto Raptors
When: 6:00 pm ET
Where: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
Watch: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Listen: 97.5 The Fanatic
Philadelphia: Joel Embiid (probable - hip); Josh Richardson (out - hamstring); Matisse Thybulle (questionable - ankle); Jonah Bolden (questionable - achilles)
Toronto: Patrick McCaw (out - knee); Stanley Johnson (out - groin); Matt Thomas (out - finger)