Well, we find ourselves in a depressingly familiar situation tonight. The Sixers are on the road, against a losing team, with a ton on the line. In the past three such situations, the Sixers have come out flat, then rolled over. Will this be the game where they finally wake up and start playing with some urgency? Or will this simply be a repeat of the past three, with the Sixers simply happy to lick to their wounds and back into the playoffs? Stats, keys and in-game discussion after the jump.
When I look at the Raptors' stats, and their roster, one word comes to mind. Soft. Could it be the heavy Euro presence on their roster? Possibly. More than anything, though, I think it's probably the fact that Bargnani is a center who plays like a shooting guard and the fact that they don't really have a shot-blocking presence on the inside.
On offense, they have four very, very good three-point shooters in Bargnani, Calderon, Parker and Kapono. I'm sure we'll see them raining threes. I would say the Sixers' ability to close out on the shooters is the key, but I'm growing weary of asking for the impossible. Instead, I'll just say that I hope the Raptors wind up missing a bunch of wide-open threes. That seems more reasonable.
If the Sixers are going to win this game, they're probably going to have to do it on the offensive side of the ball. Jose Calderon is an excellent offensive point guard. Defensively, he's a seive. He cannot keep his man out of the lane, and we've already talked about their lack of toughness and shot blocking in the lane. The Sixers should be able to get to the rim whenever they want to and finish when they get there. If they have less than 50 points in the paint, I think it's safe to say they rolled over.
Defensively, the key is going to be how far out on the floor Dalembert, Speights, Evans and Ratliff will be willing to follow Bosh and Bargnani. Both of those guys like to shoot jumpers, Bosh from midrange, Bargnani from three. None of the Sixer bigs seem especially adept at covering their men outside of the paint. Not exactly a recipe for success.
If the Sixers come to play, this game should be a win. If they do not, Toronto is perfectly capable of blowing their doors off. The importance of this game cannot be understated. If the Sixers cannot get this win tonight, I firmly believe the Bulls will pass them in the standings and the Sixers will slip to the #7 seed, at least. Someone in that locker room needs to get this point across to this young team.
The tip is at 6pm, I'll be right here, so join me for game 80 in the comments.