Game Preview: Raptors vs. 76ers
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
The 76ers are in town one day after dropping a 112-108 decision to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Philly big man Joel Embiid led the way in Sunday’s loss to Cleveland with 22 points and three blocked shots, but he isn’t expected to make the trip to Toronto, resting for the back-to-back. Monday’s game kicks off a six-game homestand of the Raptors coming off a five-game road trip where the team posted a 3-2 record.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1/SN590
Home sweet home
The Raptors are back at the Air Canada Centre, one of the toughest stretches of the season behind them. After a Cleveland/Golden State back-to-back, followed by a five-game road trip, the team will play their next six games on their home floor. After a week away, everyone is glad to be back.The key with any extended homestand is not getting too comfortable.
“On the road you’ve been edgy, you’ve been uptight, you’ve got a you against the world mentality,” Dwane Casey said. “Now you come home to the comforts of home and relax. We can’t do that. We’ve got some good teams coming in, a young, athletic Philly team coming in. Memphis is playing well, the Lakers are playing well, and Atlanta. This'll be a tough homestand. It won’t be a piece of cake whatsoever.
While everyone would always rather be at home, there are certain parts of the road that are appealing from a competitive standpoint. Maintaining those traits is crucial.
“Now we’ve got to keep up the work,” DeMarre Carroll said. “We’ve got six games at home, we’ve got to try to win all six. You want to take care of home before you go out on the road.”
Trust the process
Brett Brown’s Sixers have endured growing pains and weathered injury over the past few seasons. Though they are last in the Atlantic Division with a 4-13 record to start the season, there’s plenty to be excited about for Sixers fans, starting with Joel Embiid. Through 11 games, Embiid is averaging 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks — all team-highs. The big man isn’t expected to be available for Monday’s game against the Raptors, but he’s an exciting young talent to keep an eye on as this season rolls along.
Beyond Embiid, former Raptor Jerryd Bayless is averaging 11 points an 4.3 assists per game, while Canadian Nik Stauskas is averaging 10.2 points on 51 percent field goals.
Carroll coming along
Through Toronto’s 16 games, DeMarre Carroll is averaging 9.8 points in 25.8 minutes per game. In the previous four games that Carroll has suited up, his scoring has increased to 15.5 points per game. His shooting percentage over those four games is 52 percent from the floor and 43 percent from three, well up from his season averages of 43 percent shooting and 36 percent shooting from beyond the arc. In the past week, Dwane Casey has seen a more confident and healthy Carroll on the floor.
“DeMarre is moving better,” Casey said. “I think his knee is getting stronger, he’s decelerating a lot better, being able to stop, put the brakes on a lot better with his knee. He’s shooting the ball batter and I think all that is tied in to each other. He’s getting healthier. We’re going to need him, need his defence against some of the top players in the league. The healthier he is the better we’ll be.”
Casey also feels that Carroll is beginning to develop a rhythm of playing alongside DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. It helps when your teammates trust you and know where you’re going to be on the floor.
“I think that’s what we’re doing now, we’re kind of gelling,” Carroll said. “[My teammates] understand where I’m going to be, where I’m going to get my shots at. Defensively [they know] where I need help at [and I know] where they need help at. We’re just trying to grow, man. It’s only like  games into the season. We still have a lot of room for improvement.”
Carroll is beginning to feel like himself after working his way into game shape after taking the summer to rehab his body.
“I’m more comfortable,” he said. “I’ve got more confidence in my knee, in my game improving. I’m just trying to get better. I’ve still got to work. I’ve still got to put my work in and live with the results when I put my work in.”