James Harden and the Philadelphia 76ers (43-26) take on the Toronto Raptors (39-31) tonight in Philadelphia at 8:30 PM.
This will be the third meeting between the two squads, with the season series being currently tied at 1-1 apiece. The Raptors won the first meeting in November 115-109 in a game Joel Embiid missed due to COVID-19. The 76ers tied the season series with a 114-109 win in December without Joel Embiid in the lineup.
The Sixers are coming into tonight’s matchup looking to continue to build momentum and continue their win streak, with their most recent wins coming against Cleveland and Dallas. The team is still trying to figure out rotations and how to play with the addition of James Harden in the lineup. The 76ers are 8-2 with Harden in the lineup, but players like Tobias Harris are still adjusting to their new role as they prepare for the playoffs. Joel Embiid is questionable for tonight’s matchup against the Raptors because of back soreness.
The Raptors come into tonight’s matchup winners of 5 of their last six games, with their lone loss coming against Lebron James and the Lakers in Toronto. During that stretch, the Raptors have defeated the Suns, Nuggets, Lakers, and Clippers and play much better basketball. Toronto will be without Fred VanVleet (knee), OG Anunoby (finger), and Malachi Fynn (hamstring) in tonight’s contest.
Take a look at some things to watch for during tonight’s matchup:
Since arriving, James Harden has tried to fit in and not be as aggressive offensively as he has been in the past. He has been much of a facilitator than a scorer. Well, in the second half against the Mavericks, we saw some vintage “Houston Harden.” He took over in the second half and controlled the offense while Joel Embiid was off the floor. Harden scored 13 points and added eight assists. His aggressive drives to the hoop opened up plays for DeAndre Jordan and Matisse Thybulle. He was also doubled in the pick and roll on some occasions, which created open three-point shots for Georges Niang. We need much more of this version of Harden, Especially when Embiid isn’t on the floor.
Defending the Raptors
The Toronto Raptors are one of the longest and most athletic teams in the league, which can cause issues for their opponents. First-time All-Star guard Fred VanVleet has a recent history of playing well against the Sixers, scoring 20 plus points in two of the last three matchups. Without him, the Raptors will likely turn to the combination of Gary Trent Jr. and Pascal Siakam. The Philadelphia 76ers will also have to deal with the Raptors and their athleticism on the fast break. If the Sixers can limit fastbreak opportunities and the scoring of Trent Jr, they should be able to dominate this matchup.
Will the Bench Show Up?
The Philadelphia 76ers’ bench has been terrible in the last few games, and it’s putting a lot of the scoring load on the starters. In their most recent game, the bench scored 23 points, which is the most they have scored since their matchup on 3/7 against the Chicago Bulls. Who will step up tonight besides Georges Niang? Let’s hope the 76ers can get something from Danny Green and Shake Milton against the Raptors this evening.
You can catch tonight’s action at 8:30 PM on NBCS Philadelphia and 97.5 the Fanatic.