Next game: Toronto Raptors (23-41) at Philadelphia 76ers (30-31)
The lowly Raptors squad, losers of five straight, take on an Atlantic division opponent, the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. The game is scheduled to be on TSN2 but luckily for Toronto fans, it will also be simulcast on RaptorsTV according to Doug Smith.
Both the Raps and Sixers have been struggling and are 3-7 in their last ten. The Sixers are sitting in the #7 in the East but have a cluster of teams breathing down their neck. The Raptors on the other hand hold a 0.3% chance on making the playoffs according to Hollinger's playoff odds. The Raptors are fresh off of a fourth quarter collapse against the "half-asleep" Utah Jazz on Sunday afternoon.
Sixers 4 Guidos is a Sixers blog that is appropriately called "the first Italian Sixers blog" and is hands down the best Sixers blog in Italy. I got a chance to ask Ricky of Sixers 4 Guidos (who resides in Italy) a few questions about the Raptors-Sixers upcoming matchup, Andrea "Il Mago" Bargnani, the Canadian-Haitian Sensation and the Raps-Sixers similarities.
HHN: The Raptors and Sixers have had somewhat of a similar season, be it high expectations for the Sixers with Elton Brand in Philly, we had the same expectations with the addition of Jermaine O'Neal; both the Sixers and Raptors failed to meet expectations and fired their head coach; but the biggest difference is that you guys are in the playoff race! How did the Sixers manage to put together a decent season even with Elton Brand out with the season-ending injury?
Ricky (Sixers4Guidos): Not sure if Sixer's season can be labeled as "decent". And yes, talking after that unbelievable blowout loss vs the Durant-less, J.Green-less Thunder is influencing me....
Expectations were high, just like those of Raps fans I guess. The Brand experiment didn't work well from the beginning, when he got injured and Sixers started to click, then he came back and got injured again, this time for the season.
Sixers then went the old way, putting Thaddeus Young (who had started the season at SF, with Iguodala at the two) back at the PF spot, like he did last year. Green was put again in the starting line up at SG, same as last season, and Sixers tried to repeat their 2007/2008 formula, a fastbreak team that loves to run and get easy points in trasition (1st in NBA in that category).
Problem is that Sixers didn't improve at all in what were their weaknesses of last year: they are STILL dead last in NBA in three point shooting, their half court offense is STILL predictable and weak (Brand was brought in mainly as an answer to this), perimeter shooting is STILL streaky to say the least, even free throw shooting is becoming a real concern, with many games ended with +10 FTs missed.
Add to that a coach change, FOUR games lost with buzzer beaters (http://sixers4guidos.wordpress.com/2009/02/24/sixers-where-shit-at-the-buzzer-always-happens/), some key players regressing and you'll see there are few reasons to be happy for in Sixerland. Even making the playoffs, I mean, which still looks possible, yes.
No one would party for a first round sweep.
HHN: The Raps are sitting at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, how can the Raps take advantage of the Sixers on Wednesday?
Ricky (Sixers4Guidos): Raps are a team we always struggled against, just like Orlando. Or Boston. any team with a lot of shooters, I mean,
In general, moving the ball on the perimeter and using a lot of drive-and-kick out plays guarantees you a lot of open looks vs Sixers. Miller is a great player and by far our MVP this season, but his defense vs quicker PGs is suspect, to the point that now it's often Green guarding opposing playmakers. So not only Sixers make few threes, they also allow their opponenent to shoot them open, LOL.
If the Raptors' shooters will be on a good night, I smell another rain of threes on us...
HHN: You're in Italy, how big is Bargnani over there?
Ricky (Sixers4Guidos): I don't follow much Italian bball, as weird as this may sound. But I used to.
First, I follow the NBA in a nearly obsessive way (just ask my wife, LOL), second our league has become a joke, many teams have ZERO italians on their rosters, teams cut and add (mainly foreign) players every two days, its really difficult to follow it. So I really don't have a real perception of "how big" he is here, in terms of REAL impact on italian bball I mean.
Media cover the NBA a lot and yes, you can read and watch a lot about the League and our players here.
Last time I talked about Bargnani with Federico Buffa (=our Peter Vecsey, to give you an idea) he said "The jury is still out on Bargnani. The problem is we don't know whether the jury will come back" (LOL). I think this half-joke fits well.
HHN: Here at Hoop Heads North, we like to talk about our Canadian ballers, how has the Haitian-Canadian Sam Dalembert's season been so far with Phlly? You got any tidbits about Dalembert that the most NBA fans don't know about?
Ricky (Sixers4Guidos):This year Sam is making even the most patient Sixers fan (=me, for instance) mad.
His numbers are all down from last year, which would be the acceptable had he improved in other areas. Unfortunately he is still the king of the bonehead plays: he is already in the GHOF (Goaltending Hall of Fame), he has bad hands, he fumbles the ball a lot and, on top of that, he often choses the WORST MOMENT of the game to commit his dumb mistakes.
He's still a good rebounder, an athletic player that runs the floor well, a good guy, and can have an impact on games; unfortunately more often a negative one. The fact that he is owed 12 mill per year until 2011 does not help his case either.
I think that in the NBA there are players that do basically what he does, but for half the price: think Kendrick Perkins, or Brendan Haywood (when healthy) etc...
Thanks again to Ricky for doing our Q&A, please visit his site at Sixers 4 Guidos
Photo credit: (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)