The matchup between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors should give us an early sign of how the two teams will fare this season as both hope to finish among the top seeds in the East. Both had a successful offseason and hope the 2020-21 NBA Season will provide an opportunity to improve on their early playoff eliminations in the bubble.
In recent history, the Toronto Raptors have enjoyed sustained success over the Philadelphia 76ers, including knocking them out the playoffs during their championship run in 2019. But the Raptors have started the season 0-2, compared to 2-1 for the Sixers, and will hope to reverse their fortunes with an improved performance in Philadelphia.
Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers: Key matchups to look for
Fred VanVleet signed a new contract with the Toronto Raptors during the offseason and will be expected to spearhead the franchise's offense this year. He and his Raptors teammates will have their work cut out for them should Joel Embiid return from a back injury and be in the lineup alongside Ben Simmons.
The game will have several interesting matchups to look forward to; let's have a look.
No. 1 - Ben Simmons vs Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry, the veteran leader of the Toronto Raptors could have a long night ahead of him on Tuesday, having to cover Ben Simmons, one of the most promising point guards in the league.
The two have had their history in the past, which included both being ejected after Simmons elbowed Lowry in the 2019 playoffs. Lowry is a tenacious defender who makes up for his smaller stature with a fast pace and high basketball IQ.
The 34 year old will have to lead by example against the Philadelphia 76ers after his comments following the Toronto Raptors' loss to the San Antonio Spurs. Lowry noted that they were simply not good enough on the defensive end and need to lock in if they are to succeed this season. What better opportunity to do this than against one of the Eastern Conference's top players?
Simmons had another successful year for the Philadelphia 76ers in 2019-20 in which he averaged 16 points, eight assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. Whether Lowry is able to handle Simmons for the entirety of the game will be seen. However, whoever does take up the responsibility will need to be additionally vigilant when dribbling after Simmons led the league in steals last campaign with 2.1 per game.
No. 2 - Joel Embiid or Dwight Howard vs Aron Baynes
After sitting out the Philadelphia 76ers last game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Embiid is expected to return against the Toronto Raptors with Coach Doc Rivers playing down his injury after the game.
If he does play, Embiid could be the deciding factor between the two. The last time the 26 year old went up against his prospective opponent, Aron Baynes, Embiid scored 37 points and grabbed 22 rebounds/ Obviously, the Raptors would not mind if he is not deemed fit to play.
Dwight Howard should prove a worthy replacement for Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers. However, if the Toronto Raptors are to win this matchup, Howard playing in place of his teammate would be a welcome bonus. Both Baynes and Howard are aging veterans at the center position and would be a more equal competition.
No. 3 Fred VanVleet vs Seth Curry
Prepared to take over the reins with the Toronto Raptors, Fred VanVleet secured the biggest contract an undrafted player has ever signed during the offseason. VanVleet had a career season last year, averaging 17.6 points and 6.6 assists. He may have to produce even higher numbers if the Raptors are to finish with home court advantage come the end of the season.
His opponent in this matchup is the Philadelphia 76ers' new shooting guard, Seth Curry, having moved east from the Dallas Mavericks. Curry was an extremely efficient shooter last season and has started his opening three games as he left off. Curry shot 45% from beyond the arc in 2019-20, therefore VanVleet will be wary of how tightly he marks his opponent on the perimeter.
VanVleet is a solid defender and has dealt with Curry's better-known brother in the past with aplomb. Furthermore, he also has the advantage of being one of the Toronto Raptors' main sources of points on offense, and therefore should expect to come out on top against his opponent.Published 29 Dec 2020, 07:20 IST