The Raptors are 1-3 since a win 9 days ago that had Raptors fans thinking the playoffs were possible. Three straight losses to the Buck, Nets and Bulls have been a huge reality check to that. Philadelphia continues to struggle but still hangs on to ninth in the east despite being 2-8 in their last 10 games. The Raptors are just 5-5 in that same time period.
The Raptors struggles in the division have been equal to my worst fears with the only win in division coming in that contest 9 days ago at the ACC. The Raptors will have to get a win on the road in this one which is never easy given their 4-16 record thus far this season.
While the story coming out of the game against the Bulls was the refs it should have been how this team allowed themselves to get behind by 19 points. They also got dominated in the paint. Not exactly the strong suit of the Sixers. Philadelphia even though they will never admit it, likely brought in Andrew Bynum more to unload is big contract in the off-season and be a player in free agency.
Jrue Holiday is always the major concern when the Raptors and Sixers meet-up. He has had a great deal of success over the Raptors in his young career. The Raptors will need to keep him under control if they have any chance at winning. In the game they did win they did a good job of that in the first half but not so much in the second half.
The Raptors defense has it moments but still struggles to match the levels it reached under Dwane Casey in year one. The magic number that has nothing to do with Pizza seems to be 100. If the Raptors can hold teams under that number their chances of winning seem to increase greatly. The Raptors have not won a single game if the opposition reaches triple digits. In contrast they have scored 100 sometimes giving fans pizza and still coming out with a loss for their troubles.
Recently Quincy Acy has been seeing some minutes which might be a subtle sign of where the season is heading. It might just be the Raptors reality with Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas out of the line-up. In any case the Raptors will officially or unofficially turn the page and start looking towards next season. Or at least they should.
It sucks that Raptors look like they are not going to make the post-season once again but it might be for the best. The Raptors entering the trade deadline out of the playoff hunt will allow them to make the right moves as far as trades go to move forward with this team.
If they don’t move Jose Calderon at the deadline it would be a sign they could be considering what would be a major mistake signing him to a new contract in the off-season. His play has been outstanding this year but it seems unrealistic that he can remain your starting point guard moving forward with this young group for me.
Kyle Lowry is finally starting to look like the guy we say at the start of the year and in these months to close the season he really needs to step up and re-claim his starting role. He will never win a popularity contest with Jose Calderon. He doesn’t have to though. He just has to play well and make it clear he can handle the starting-role. Staying healthy will be a big part of that. In the end the Raptors paid far too high a price to get Lowry to just simply expect him being their back-up point guard.
Ask yourself this, if the Raptors had landed Steve Nash would they still make the same trade for Kyle Lowry? You would hope not given the high price they paid. So if we believe that is true, why should we think the Raptors would be willing to keep Calderon as the starter? It is the same price tag for a back-up point guard in favour of a less talented starter in comparison to Nash.
Landry Fields may always be haunted by the contract he got thanks in part to Nash. That said his play since returning from injury has been closer to what the Raptors expected when signing him. I don’t think playing at the power forward spot was part of that vision but he has done it at times.
The Raptors road record in Philly is a decent one at 16-18 all-time. They lost 106-98 in November in the first meeting this season in Philly. Raptors are 4-3 in there last 7 games in Philly. Perhaps the most famous Raptors game of all-time was in this city with a three that never fell from the corner by a very recent UNC Graduate named Vincent Lamar Carter.