The Toronto Raptors pay a visit to Philadelphia to face the 76ers for the second time this season.
Philadelphia came out on top when the two teams met up in Toronto by a score of 93-83 on Nov. 10.
Despite the Raptors recent struggles, Philadelphia is one of the few places they have found success over recent years, winning nine of the last 13 matchups.
Here are a few key thoughts to consider ahead of the game:
The Bargnani funk
The shine has quickly worn off for Andrea Bargnani in Toronto.
At this point in the season a year ago, headlines sung his praise as scribes noted that he had picked up his defence, (which was still a weakness), and was scoring at ridiculous heights, prompting coach Dwane Casey to evoke comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki.
This year, Bargnani has struggled to find consistency and the gloves have come off.
The one quote everyone keeps pointing to was when “Dwane Casey told the National Post before the season, ““I’m going to push him and pull him as much as I can. But it’s up to Andrea. The talent is there. He’s the only guy that can pull it out from himself. I think every method in the world, every scenario has been played for him for this organization.”
That seemed to signal that the Raptors were starting to realize what Bargnani’s ceiling was: a strong scorer with a limited post-up game who doesn’t rebound aggresively although he had improved on the defensive end of the floor.
Maybe the pressure is getting to Bargnani as this team has missed the playoffs for four years running and the slow start points to that streak continuing.
“Me personally, I would never say it’s too early to worry,” Bargnani told the Sporting News. “It has been four years now that we have had a losing record, so it’s definitely not early for me, Jose (Calderon), and the other guys that have been around. Nobody is thinking that it’s too early. We definitely have to turn it around and we are going to play better starting now.”
Bargnani, has feasted on the Sixers of late. He needs to continue or things are going to get ugly fast.
While the heat is turning up on Bargnani, he is lucky he is not in Andrew Bynum’s shoes.
It was revealed over the weekend that Bynum injured his right knee while bowling. This was of course while he was in the midst of rehabbing his other knee.
He has yet to play a game in Philly this season and while it has taken seven years for Toronto media to begin to go after Bargnani, it will not take quite as long in Philly, a city with fans that once booed Santa Clause at an Eagles game.
I will say my favourite headline thus far is courtesy of the Daily News and reads, “Pinhead setback for Bynum.”
Not a morning person
It seems like it would be almost natural for a player to play in the afternoon but this past weekend’s double bill of matinee games was an adjustment for Raptors rookie Jonas Valanciunas.
Having played pro ball since he was 16, this may have been the first time he has played in the morning.
I think we all share that early morning sentiment in our own lives although 1 p.m. is hardly the morning. I suppose it is all relative if you are used to working at night.
Collins a good fit in Philly
While Doug Collins once wore out his welcome with Micheal Jordan in Chicago, he seems to have blossomed in Philadelphia where he has led the Bynum-less Sixers to a 6-4 record.
Sure the talent is there but many expected the Sixers to struggle once they were missing the big man in the middle.
Collins knows that his job is more than just calling plays. He also needs to manage his players.
“It’s not X’s and O’s, it’s about managing people and trying to get the most out of people on a daily basis,” Collins told the Daily News. “When a guy doesn’t have it, I let him know it’s not personal and that I have to try to find somebody else. That’s why you try to build relationships, because when you build relationships, hopefully, guys understand that. Everybody wants to play. Everybody. For me, night to night with this group, it could be a different group every night.”