If you had said the Toronto Raptors would play Philadelphia 76ers for first place in the Atlantic Division on November 20th you would have been laughed at. The Sixers who were pegged as an early favourite to win the Wiggins lottery ball race. The Sixers 3-0 start was the most shocking story of the NBA season this year.
Michael Carter-Williams the Sixers rookie taking the place of Jrue Holiday who was traded to New Orleans in the off-season was the star of this unexpected start. He averaged 20.6 points, 9 assists and shooting 46.8% (22-47) in the first 3 games. Carter-Williams scored double digit points in his first seven games as a pro.
Since the hot 3-0 start the Sixers are 2-7 and fallen back to their expected reality. The fact they still lead the Atlantic Division speaks to how horrible the division as a whole has been.
The other Philadelphia player that has risen to take advantage of the Sixers depleted talent pool has been Evan Turner. Turner is averaging over 20 points a game and his stats have improved across the board. He gives credit to former Sixers’ coach Doug Collins for his improvement in an article on Philly.com.
As inconsistent and terrible as the Raptors have been it seems almost crazy to think after tonight they could lead the Atlantic Division. It really puts the Raptors in a strange position in what they should do with this season moving forward. On the other end of the spectrum the Raptors are just one game out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
Perhaps a good result from this game tonight will be at least a starting point to the Raptors establishing some kind of direction for this season in a positive way. In the next few games the Raptors will challenge teams that are in similar situations as they find themselves with games against Washington and Brooklyn coming up. If the Raptors can sweep all three of these games it could hold off the talk of tanking and deconstructing this roster for at least the short term.
In terms of tonight’s game Thaddeus Young has had a solid history against the Raptors. He has only averaged 14.3 points so far this season. Heading into the year some might have expected Young to be the guy to step up to the plate and lead this team in scoring. He has 29 point performances against lesser teams like the Wizards and Cavaliers.
At the end of it all this will be measuring stick game for the Raptors in some ways for the Raptors. The Raptors schedule becomes very difficult after this stretch of three winnable games. If they fail to win at least 2 of the next 3 games the Raptors will really have no legit reason to play for this season any longer from management's perspective.