Archive for the ‘Philadelphia 76ers’ Category

Start time: 8:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson
Philadelphia: Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes

Injury report

Toronto: Jerryd Bayless and Linas Kleiza are both day-to-day.

Philadelphia: No injuries to report.

I was confident the Raptors would roll over the Nets last night, so naturally they laid a giant egg at the Air Canada Centre last night. The Sixers are heavily favored in this matchup, so of course… nope, the Raptors will probably lose this one, too.

Already, it’s obvious that the Sixers are the class of the Atlantic Division this season. They’re deep, they’re well-coached, and they have a couple of surprise breakout stars six games into their season. Louis Williams is suddenly playing like a sixth-man-of-the-year candidate in his seventh NBA season, but he’s only 25 years old so it’s not surprising he’d start to peak now. He’s averaging 17.8 points in just 26 minutes per game, and he’s doing that with the best True Shooting Percentage (.590) of his career.

And yet he’s not even the biggest surprise of the Sixers’ season. The emergence of Spencer Hawes as a top-five center so far this season is one of the most inexplicable things I’ve seen in my NBA-watching days. It goes without saying that nobody thought he was capable of playing at an All-Star level — before this season, I didn’t even consider him to be a legitimate starter. Six games in, he’s playing like a turbocharged Andrew Bogut with per-game averages of 13.5 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 2.2 blocks while making 65 percent of his shots. There is absolutely no way he’ll sustain those averages, but since I haven’t watched the Sixers yet this season, he’s my main source of curiosity for this matchup.

No random thoughts today, but here’s another of what I expect will be 20 or 30 brilliant Mr. Show sketches I’ll post this season. It’s “The Pre-Taped Call-In Show”.

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The 21-57 Raptors entered Philadelphia without Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon, and found out, just before tip-off, that they would also be without the services of Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa.

In theory, this game probably should have never been a game, but the Raptors were actually keeping things close early on. By early on, I mean the first six minutes. After tying the game at 14 midway through the first quarter, the Raps, who had been playing with energy and a decent effort on the defensive end, went ice cold.

Toronto missed its last 11 shots of the first quarter, and watched the Sixers finish the quarter on a 14-4 run to take a 10-point lead into the second quarter.

Things just got ugly from that point on. The Raptors turned the ball over, committed silly offensive fouls, clanked nasty jumpers, and were shooting under 25 per cent from the field early in the second.

But the Raps did respond with a 9-0 run of their own to get back in the ball game, and despite the fact that they committed 11 turnovers and shot just 37 per cent in the first half, they went into the break down “just” 12. Obviously, digging a double-digit hole in the first half is not ideal, but if you actually watched the first half of this game, you know that it could have easily been a 20-25 point deficit.

Philly must have regretted not putting the Raptors away early, as Toronto broke out in the third quarter. The Raps settled things down offensively, locked in on defence, and relied on the suddenly hot shooting of DeMar DeRozan to turn this into a ball game again.

After struggling to get over the five-point hump, an Ed Davis jam cut the deficit to three, and a Jerryd Bayless jumper put the Raptors ahead, at 71-70, for their first lead since the game was 14-12. After a mostly horrendous first half that should have had them down and out, the Raptors used a scorching third quarter to put themselves in a one-point game after three.

The Raptors continued to hang tough in the fourth quarter, and even had a chance for a game-tying three in the dying seconds, as Jerryd Bayless and DeRozan took over in the final frame. Unfortunately though, for the second game in a row, a solid second half effort could not dig the Raptors out of an early hole. And it was turnovers that killed them.

On to the positives for the Raptors. With a depleted lineup once again, the young core of DeRozan, Bayless and Ed Davis shone bright. Jerryd and DeMar combined for 51 points and knocked down some big shots late in the game, while Davis finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.

It was also nice to see Julian Wright providing a spark off of the bench again.

On a random sidenote, Jay Triano was ejected in the fourth quarter during a commercial break, but from what I saw, he was only given one technical foul.

So the Raptors drop to 21-58, but continue to show some promise for the future through their young, talented players. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that.

Next is up is a home date with the almost as equally lowly Nets on Sunday night.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 42 Min, 24 Pts, 9-17 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 4 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO

76ers Player of the Game: Elton Brand – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 10-16 FG, 2-2 FT, 8 Reb, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: The Philly faithful. The building looked shamefully empty for a team that is a week away from playoff basketball.

Doug Collins

While the Raptors are spending the final week of the regular season evaluating their young players and making vacation plans, the Sixers are a half-game behind the Knicks in the battle for sixth place in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers are one of the feel-good stories of the 2010-11 season, battling back from a 3-13 start to the point where they’re on the verge of finishing over .500 for the first time since the 2004-05 season.

A lot of the credit should go to head coach Doug Collins for his team’s improvement from 24th in the league in Defensive Efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions) to eighth overall this season. Too bad so few Philly fans seem to care — they’re 26th in the NBA in team attendance.

Injury report

Toronto: Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon are out tonight, while Amir Johnson and Leandro Barbosa are gametime decisions.

Philadelphia: Louis Williams is expected to miss the rest of the season with “a dead leg” while Andre Iguodala is probable with a sore knee.

Five questions

1. In the first full week of every month this season, I posted my top 10 power rankings for each of the five NBA positions — a Toronto Raptor never made any of the rankings. Do you think one of the Raptors deserves to be considered top 10 at his position?

2. Who is likely to get more awards love: Doug Collins for Coach of the Year or Andre Iguodala for Defensive Player of the Year? (Note: I know neither player will win, I’m wondering who is more worthy to be in the conversation.)

3. Why does Marreese Speights only play 11.4 minutes per game when he averages 16.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per 36 minutes?

4. Should the fact that the Raptors rank last in the NBA in payroll efficiency be taken into account when MLSE decides whether or not to extend Bryan Colangelo’s contract?

5. Did you catch Taco Trey Kerby’s “Texts from Doug Collins” post from last week? It’s pretty, pretty, pretty good.

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson
Philadelphia: Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes

Tonight’s pregame song is “The Seed (2.0)” by The Roots, who are from Philly, dontcha know.

Among NBA coaches outside Toronto, the word is out on how soft the Raptors’ defence is. Admittedly, you don’t need to be Gregg Popovich to figure out that the Raptors’ defensive deficiencies are easy to exploit — they can’t defend the pick-and-roll, they don’t box out consistently, they’re soft, they’re not particularly athletic, certain key players “tune out” for extended periods on the defensive end… I could go on, but you get the point. Here’s Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins on the Raptors’ defence:

“I was watching the Spurs-Toronto game and one of the sets (San Antonio) runs, we run and Toronto was struggling stopping it when they played zone. We ran that play almost the entire second quarter. (Maurice Speights) rolled to the basket and Jrue (Holiday) did a nice job finding him for those little pocket passes and scores.”

The second quarter of last night’s game might have been the most embarrassing defensive display I’ve seen the Raptors put up all season, and that’s really saying something. It wasn’t just that the Sixers scored 30 points in the quarter, it was how they scored them. They repeatedly scored off the same pick-and-roll play and off of several uncontested offensive rebounds.

In particular, backup big man Marreese Speights looked like an unstoppable force of nature as he scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed five offensive rebounds in his nine-minute stint. Unsurprisingly, Andrea Bargnani was the main Raptor to look bad on a lot of these points, but Jose Calderon, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and new Raptor Alexis Ajinca all had moments where they were culpable — as you can see in this painful-to-watch compilation of Speights’ second-quarter offensive rampage.

Read the rest of this entry »

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When Marreese Speights goes off on you in your ninth straight loss, you got problems

For the second straight game, the Raptors came out flying and started hot, only to slowly fade as the game wore on, eventually dropping another home game, losing their ninth straight and falling 20 games below .500.

The warning signs for what was to come were present, even in what looked like a solid first quarter for the Raptors. Ten of Philadelphia’s first 16 points were scored on open layups, dunks or alley-oops. And though the Sixers only managed 20 points in that first quarter, and the Raptors held a nine-point lead, it had little to do with good Raptors defence. The truth is that Philly was misfiring on some open looks.

DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani were keeping the Raptors hot offensively in the first half, especially DeRozan, and Julian Wright was providing his usual spark on defence (Wright was the only Raptor to finish with a positive plus/minus). Though it should be noted that Wright went 4-of-11 tonight, which included three missed layups in the first half.

The Raptors struggled dearly opening the second and third quarters, and in the end, those runs helped the Sixers stretch their lead. Philly opened the second quarter on a 17-4 run, and the Raps were lucky to have the game tied at 50 at the half. In the first few minutes of the second half, the Sixers compiled a 10-2 run to take a semi-comfortable lead which they would never relinquish.

The deficit was a very manageable seven points heading into the fourth quarter, but the truth is that the Raptors never showed up for the fourth. There was no spark, no defining play or moment to rally the fans or the team, and no sense of urgency or energy emanating from the Raptors bench. Though I know it wasn’t the case, the Raptors seemed generally okay with dropping their ninth straight.

Rebounding, second chance points and interior defence were the Raptors’ undoing. The Raps were out-rebounded 43-33, were outscored by 12 (at my last count) in second chance points and were outscored in the paint, 56-30. When your team is already low on talent and limited by injuries, those numbers just won’t cut it.

Alexis Ajinca and Trey Johnson made their Raptors debuts, though neither made an impact in limited minutes. The pair combined for five points in 18 total minutes. Ajinca, who will be hard-pressed to earn a future in Toronto, actually looked decent on the floor. But it’s too hard to make any sort of assessment in a six minute sample.

The positives for the Raptors were few and far between on this night. Bargnani had a solid night statistically, and even recorded three blocks, but was defensively poor for most of the night, and disappeared offensively in the second half. Amir Johnson finished with 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting and also had three blocks, but only grabbed six rebounds in 35 minutes of action.

Once again, DeMar DeRozan shone brightest for the Raptors, highlighted by his game-high 29 points and 12 trips to the free throw line.

It really is amazing to see how quickly things can change in the NBA, or pro sports for that matter. Two months ago, the Raptors disposed of the Sixers twice in a one-week span. At the time, Toronto looked like a young team that could over-achieve, while Philly looked like a hopeless squad destined for a top-five pick. The Sixers are now becoming more and more comfortable in a playoff spot, while the only thing separating the Raps from the East’s basement is Cleveland.

With the Raptors now 20 games below .500 and six or seven games back of the eighth seed in the East (depending on how tonight’s Bobcats-Suns game finishes), perhaps delusional fans still dreaming of a miraculous playoff birth will come to terms with the fact that this year is finished, from a wins and losses standpoint. Just look for youth development, exciting games, an honest effort, and a lucky bounce of the lottery balls.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -40 Min, 29 Pts, 9-18 FG, 11-12 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast

76ers Player of the Game: Marreese Speights -17 Min, 23 Pts, 10-12 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 3-3 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Ast (Yes, that’s how bad the interior defence was. Speights had 23 and nine in just 17 minutes)