Raptors are a true test for Sixers
Can the 76ers continue to spread the ball the way they did in their last five games? Is the Sixers' two-game winning streak a result of being an improved team or because they faced a bad club followed by a disinterested club? Can they slow down a team that has embarrassed them over the last three plus seasons?
Those are the questions heading into Wednesday night's NBA Atlantic Division meeting with the Toronto Raptors at Wells Fargo Center.
"They have players that are really good in isolation like [two-time all-stars] in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry," Sixers reserve center Jahlil Okafor said. "They have really good shooters."
The Raptors (17-7) also have a good center in Jonas Valanciunas.
"They are one of the best teams in the East for a reason," Okafor added. "So we will have a lot on our hands."
Toronto defeated the Sixers, 122-95, at Air Canada Centre back on Nov. 28 in a game that was more lopsided than the final scored indicated. It was the Raptors' 13th consecutive series victory against the Sixers (6-18).
However, the Sixers were without rookie-of-the-year frontrunner Joel Embiid during that game. The 7-foot-2, 275-pounder sat out what was the second game of a back-to-back situation to rest his right foot.
Embiid is averaging 18.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. He should provide a huge lift for the Sixers in a game where they're 8 ½-point underdogs.
He didn't play in Sunday's victory against the Detroit Pistons. The Sixers didn't need him, rolling to a lopsided victory. That came after they defeated the shorthanded New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.
"It's helping us a lot to get our confidence," Embiid said the two-game winning streak. "We know that the work we put in is paying off. It feels good. It's important."
But beating the Pelicans (8-18) and Pistons (13-13) is far different from being able to steal a win from the Raptors.
While no one can doubt that they've improved, Wednesday night's matchup will be a barometer to how good thing actually is.
"So it's all about us making sure we contain DeRozan or Lowry or Terrence Ross, who have been playing well. So it's a team game and we got to play team defense.
"It's a really good team," Okafor said. "They are hard to guard and we will have our hands full."