Game Preview: Raptors @ Sixers
Holly MacKenzie - Raptors.com
Tip-off: 7:00 P.M. ET
Broadcast Info: SNET1 / TSN1050
First look at rookie Embiid
The Sixers were without Joel Embiid when they lost to the Raptors in Toronto two weeks ago. The rookie big man didn’t make the trip because the team rested him in a back-to-back, but he is expected to be in uniform on Wednesday. With averages of 18.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, Embiid certainly makes the Sixers a different team when he’s on the floor. The Raptors know this.
“I tell you what, a young Shawn Kemp is what he reminds me of,” Dwane Casey said. “But he’s bigger, [He] can put the ball on the floor, can face up, can take you off the dribble, can shoot the jump shot, is powerful. He’s a very good young talent that’s gonna be a force in this league.”
Lowry in the zone
To say that Kyle Lowry is in a groove right now would be an underestimate. Lowry is shooting and scoring and putting points on the board with ease, particularly from deep, where he’s gone 40-for-66 (61 percent) over his last nine games.
“Kyle is on a tear,” Dwane Casey said. “He’s doing a great job. And somebody mentioned yesterday, it’s contagious. One guy sees [the ball] go through [the net], the other guy gets his confidence. So it’s one of those things that really a contagious feeling of rhythm.”
Lowry discussed DeMar DeRozan’s hot start to the year and said when he had it going the team played off him. Since opponents have started double-teaming DeRozan he has found his teammate and they’ve been confident, in rhythm and ready to score.
As for how it feels when everything you toss up feels like it’s going in, that sounds pretty enjoyable.
“It’s like that runner’s high they talk about,” Lowry said. “I have never caught the runner’s high. I don’t know what people are talking about. But I think it’s that. That high that no matter what you shoot you feel like it’s going to go in. Even if you miss it, it should have went in. If you shoot an air ball you feel like the rim moved. It’s that type of thing.
Learning through wins and losses
The Raptors have won nine of their last 10 games. A loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was the team’s only loss over the past three weeks. Despite the winning — and seemingly effortless offensive performances — there are still things to learn after each game. Thanks to plenty of film watching, the players are still paying attention to their miscues, even after double-digit victories.
Following Monday’s 122-100 win against the Milwaukee Bucks, it was DeMar DeRozan who had allowed the sweet taste of victory to fade into the rearview, instead focusing on things to improve upon. Pointing to the team’s effort on the defensive end of the floor, as well as the third quarter where they allowed the Bucks to cut a 20-point lead in half, DeRozan was critiquing rather than celebrating the win.
“We always got to lean on the things that we could be a lot better at,” he said. “At the end of the day, we still could be a lot better, especially defensively. We got to keep striving for that so once the real deal come around, we can win games defensively.”
Dwane Casey has been all about defence since he arrived in Toronto five seasons ago. His message has remained the same as his team has improved season after season. With his leaders echoing his words throughout the locker room, his message has never been louder or easier to hear.
“I think it’s great,” Casey said. “I think it’s really good when you hear players reiterate what you’re saying, what we’re talking about. And it’s really important for us to come out of the locker room in the third quarter, because our Achilles heel has been the first and third [quarters]. We’ve been one of the top teams in the fourth playing defence, so now we gotta make sure we extend that as we start, as we come out of the locker room. It’s another point of emphasis we have at halftime.”
As the team continues to try to improve and build upon where they’re going, the commitment to doing things the right way all of the time is another sign of maturity.