A showdown between the Sixers' slash and the Raptors' flash
Star Light, Star Bright
NBA.com analyst Chris Ford previews the Eastern Conference Semifinal series between the Sixers and the Raptors.
Three Things for the Philadelphia:
Need to find a second consistent scorer besides Allen Iverson
Can Dikembe Mutombo bring some additional offensive production and help shoulder some of the load from Iverson
Get back in defensive transition as Toronto looks to push the ball
Three Things for Toronto:
Need to find a second consistent scorer besides Vince Carter
Antonio Davis and Charles Oakley need to not only score, but to make sure Philadelphia doesn't gain an edge on the offensive boards
Must run whenever they get the chance with the hope of scoring easy baskets
On paper, the frontlines of Toronto are matched evenly. Dikembe Mutombo has the size at center and is the premier center left in the East, but Antonio Davis is a strong, physical player and such a hard worker. That matchup will be interesting. Toronto also has Charles Oakley and Jerome Willams up front, both good rebounders, while Philadelphia brings Tyrone Hill and George Lynch. This will make for a interesting defensive matchup and lots of questions on offensive. Driving the lane will be difficult, so a premium will be placed on outside shooting, and subsequently offensive rebounds. None of these players are real offensive forces and usually score on putbacks, so controlling the boards will be paramount.
One question mark will be Matt Geiger. Is his knee healthy? Can he crack the rotation and provide depth to the front line? Those are questions that will be answered as the series plays out.
Philadelphia's Offensive Approach:
Larry Brown is not concerned about what Toronto is going to do, but more concerned about what his team will do on offense and defense. The Sixers have had some rest which is important this time of year, especially for Iverson since he takes such a beating going to the hole. Davis and Oakley won't make it any easier on him.
The Raptors will run players at him, double-team him as much as possible and make someone else have to step up, but he did have 51 points against Toronto in a regular season game, so stopping Iverson is never easy. That means McKie has to be a big offensive threat for them through out the playoffs. The Sixers have relied on defense-defense throughout the year but right now they're going to have to find ways to score points. Mutumbo is going to get his points off the offensive glass. They're going to have to score, hopefully, in transition.
Toronto's Offensive Approach:
As a team that has trouble scoring points, the Raptors look to push the ball up the court as quickly as possible and try scoring easy baskets in transition. Chris Childs and Alvin Williams played well against New York, a similar team to Philadelphia due to the fact that they both play good half court defense, and the Raptors do not want to set up in a half court offense against Philadelphia's set defense.
Carter is very effective driving to the hole, and with Mutombo sitting back there waiting for him, it will be very difficult for him and he will need to rely more on his outside shooting. Davis and Oakley need to find ways to score as well. Oakley likes to step outside and knock down the 15-to18-foot jumper and will try to draw Hill away from the boards. If Carter and Williams go cold from the outside, Oakley needs to step up and he has always risen to the occasion. He has the ability to hit three or four of those in a row.
Poised for a big series:
Who is going to score besides Iverson and Carter for their respective teams? Neither team has another player that can score 20 points, night-in, night-out and can be penciled in to get the job done. Alvin Williams had a great series against New York, averaging 17.4 ppg, and that's up from his regular season mark of 9.8 ppg, and his offense certainly played a very big role in ousting the Knicks. Can he keep producing points?
McKie has been talked about quite often as being a key for Philadelphia, and he is the leading candidate for the Sixth Man Award but he will need to do more than that this time around. His First Round stats were nearly identical to Williams (17.3 ppg) and he will be counted on to provide that spark off the bench.
Toronto took the season series 3-1, and they have a tremendous amount of confidence in that fact. One of the wins was in overtime at Philadelphia when the Sixers let Iverson's 51-point performance go for naught. The Raptors must be thinking, "We took the best he could offer us and we still beat them in Philly." Despite the Sixers home court advantage, Toronto must be confident coming in.
Each team has one key scorer, and they will try shutting down that scorer, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will do it. Philadelphia has the defensive advantage, and with Mutombo protecting all in the paint, Philadelphia is where they want to be. This is the reason the Sixers traded for Mutombo and he has been able to block shots and dominate the boards, and he is living up to what he is asked to be doing. He is scoring points as well and will continue to score points as the series gores along.
Philadelphia and Toronto are poised for a highly competitive series. This will be a knock-down, drag-out, defensive oriented series that will undoubtedly result in a bunch of low-scoring games.
Philadelphia has the home court advantage, and Mutombo's presence on the inside will be a big advantage as well. This is the reason they traded for him -- to dominate on the inside and get the Sixers over the hump. He is the best big center in the East right now and the Sixers will ride him to the next round.
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