1. Defending Bargnani and Calderon
Andrea Bargnani has always been a good offensive player, and he always poses problems for opposing centres (we’re playing a Canadian team, after all). Spencer Hawes, while improved, won’t stand a chance covering him on the perimeter. Neither likely will Elton Brand, who provided the majority of defense in last year’s games. Thaddeus Young can certainly guard him out near the three point line, but he gives up height and strength in the post. Bargnani causes matchup problems for anyone we have, and preventing him from getting to his scoring average (23/game) will be a challenge.
Meanwhile, Jose Calderon has a wonderful name. He is also capable of playing wonderful basketball. So far this year, Jose is averaging 13 points and 10 assists. One of the few pure point guards left in the league, Calderon runs a beautiful pick-and-roll game, which can mess with opposing defenses. And since Jrue Holiday is pretty much useless in defending the pick-and-roll, Calderon can have a big offensive game. The Holiday-Calderon matchup will be one to watch.
I’d talk about DeMar DeRozan, but if the Sixers are smart they put Andre Iguodala on him. That’ll keep DeRozan in check.
2. Dealing with some actual resistance
In past years, you could stand to deal with the offensive that Calderon and Bargnani dealt since they allowed as many or more points to their opposition. This year, while both are still bad defenders, Coach Casey’s defensive schemes have markedly improved the Raptor defense. With an average or slightly worse defense, the Sixers can’t just have their way with Toronto. If anything, it puts more emphasis on preventing Bargnani and Calderon from burning you.
The Sixers should have a clear advantage on the boards, however. Bargnani’s a pitiful rebounder. Ed Davis is good but easily pushed around – length can be a slight issue. Amir Johnson isn’t much of a rebounder either. While the Raptors have been adequate so far, I don’t think they’ll offer the Sixers much resistance on the boards, especially the o-boards.
3. Getting any offense from Iguodala
Andre Iguodala had a miserable offensive showing in the past two games. The Raptors have started Rasual Butler in every game they’ve played this year at the opposing forward spot. While not a horrible defender, Butler’s not that good either. DeRozan’s a good athlete but not a much better defender. If the offense doesn’t come tonight, it may never come back.