Tuesday, the Toronto Raptors will travel to their Eastern Conference rivals, Philadelphia 76ers, to face off in what should be a close encounter. The Raptors have won none of the last 12 regular-season meetings over Philly over the past three years and took the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-3. They will be hoping this continues throughout the 2020-21 NBA Season as they seek to gain home court again for the playoffs.
It is unclear whether Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid will be available after missing the Sixers' 118-94 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers. If not already worrying about how a poor Cleveland squad could so easily beat their team, the 76ers fanbase will be more shocked by how obvious their reliance on their 26-year old center is.
The Toronto Raptors would no doubt be alright to see their opponent's top asset missing again on Tuesday evening.
Fixture: Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers - NBA Season 2020-21
Date & Time: Tuesday, December 29th, 2020 - 7 PM ET (Wednesday, December 30th, 2020 - 5:30 AM IST)
Venue: Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Toronto Raptors have had an awkward start to the season and appear to be missing former players Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol more than may have been expected.
After a disappointing home-court 113-99 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, the Toronto Raptors suffered another defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, 119-114. Despite a much-improved performance, Raptors fans will be hoping that their side can continue their previous fortune in this head-to-head when they travel to Philadelphia.
Comfortably taking care of the Washington Wizards (113-107) and New York Knicks (109-89) in their opening two matchups, the Philadelphia 76ers were then beaten by the underdog Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday night.
The loss was compounded by Joel Embiid's injury. If the star center is to miss a second game in a row, the Philadelphia 76ers will need improved performances from their shooters in this one.
Toronto Raptors Preview
Ever since LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors have enjoyed improved fortunes in the Eastern Conference. Nick Nurse's squads have consistently challenged for the top spot over the years and were able to take home the franchise's first-ever championship in 2019 after James had left the conference.
Since then, the Raptors have had to say goodbye to some of the key players in that famous run. Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka have all headed West and has left Toronto with a smaller lineup. If there is anyone who can get the best out of his players, however, it is Nurse, who won coach of the year in the 2019-20 season.
This has led to the Toronto Raptors being picked once again to finish among the top seeds in the East. A return to form is much needed from the Raptors after their opening two losses and if they are to compete, games such as this matchup against the 76ers are ones that can decide a season.
Key Player - Fred VanVleet
Having played a pivotal part in the Toronto Raptors' success over the past few seasons, Fred VanVleet signed a four-year contract during the offseason, making him the highest-paid undrafted player in the history of the league. The guard has earned this trust from the franchise through hard work and clutch scoring, including in their championship run in 2019.
The Toronto Raptors will struggle to match the Philadelphia 76ers for size down low, therefore will be looking to VanVleet to repeat his performance from his last outing in San Antonio. The 26 year old scored 27 points with nine assists against the Spurs after a disappointing display in their first fixture against the Pelicans.
Toronto Raptors Predicted Line-up
G Kyle Lowry, G Fred VanVleet, F Pascal Siakam, F OG Anunoby, C Aron Baynes
Philadelphia 76ers Preview
The Philadelphia 76ers have been criticized over the years for not performing consistently and have struggled against superior opposition in the playoffs. Sixers fans may have to face the same realization this year unless Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are able to stay fit and continuously play at the All-Star level they are capable of doing.
Of course, it shouldn't all be on their two young stars. After all, the Philadelphia 76ers have very capable shooters in Seth Curry, Tobias Harris and Danny Green. Daryl Morey pulled off a series of impressive moves during the league's offseason but will be hoping that they can play a part alongside his superstars rather than instead of them.
Key Player - Joel Embiid
The Philadelphia 76ers big man's absence from their Sunday night matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers was more obvious than hoped for their fanbase.
Coach Doc Rivers spoke after the game and said that they didn't want to take the risk with Embiid this early in the season, but that it was nothing to worry about going forward. We can, tentatively, say then that Embiid will likely return to the floor Tuesday night and will be much-needed if the Philadelphia 76ers are to avoid another loss.
Going forward, should the Philadelphia 76ers miss Embiid through injury, they now know it can't be as bad as it was in Cleveland. The matchup only proved how pivotal their young star is and if he is cleared to play against the Toronto Raptors, he should enjoy dominating Aron Baynes down low. The last time the two met, Embiid recorded 37 points and 22 rebounds, therefore the Raptors will be hoping he is still on the bench.
Philadelphia 76ers Predicted Line-up
G Ben Simmons, G Seth Curry, F Danny Green, F Tobias Harris, C Joel Embiid
Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers Match Prediction
Considering the starts these two have had, we can expect a cagey affair with neither side wanting to lose to an Eastern Conference rival this early on. A lot will depend on the fitness of Joel Embiid, and if the center can start, the Philadelphia 76ers will be hoping to win this one.
Should the center be out, all eyes will be on Ben Simmons and what he can come up with to overcome the Toronto Raptors' experience. VanVleet and Lowry will be comfortable running the show knowing that Aron Baynes won't be getting tormented by Embiid, in which case we could see a much closer game.
Where to watch Toronto Raptors vs Philadelphia 76ers?
Fans in Canada will be able to watch the game on Sportsnet. In America, the game will also be available on NBC Sports Philadelphia. International fans can stream the game live on the NBA League Pass.Published 29 Dec 2020, 05:41 IST