Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

sixers-raptors-matchup.jpg

Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (5-7) return home from their three-game road trip to face a division opponent for the first time this season when the Toronto Raptors come to town on Wednesday.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Diving into the division
The Sixers are coming off a winless three-game road trip in which they lost by an average of 16.6 points. They’re also allowing a league-worst 109.9 points per game, and starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams is ailing with a bruised arch in his left foot.

Ready for the good news? The Sixers are still leading the miserable Atlantic Division.

The Atlantic is the only division in the entire NBA that doesn’t have at least one team with a .500 record. Coming into Wednesday, the Sixers are the only Atlantic team with a winning mark against other Eastern Conference opponents, at 4-3. Also, each of the five teams in the Atlantic have currently lost at least two games in a row.

While the Sixers have been reeling lately, this could be just the right time to open up division play against a Raptors team they have beaten in seven of the last nine meetings.

2. They’re free for a reason
Simply playing against other struggling teams won’t be enough for the Sixers. They will have to help themselves on the court and they can start at the free throw line.

While the Sixers are in the middle of the pack in both free throws attempted and free throw makes per game, they rank 23rd in percentage from the charity stripe at 71.1.

That number dropped during their recent road trip when they made 52 of 76 freebies (68.4 percent). A main contributor to that mark was guard Tony Wroten, who was 3 of 9 from the line in Monday’s loss to the Mavs. He is shooting just 55.3 percent on free throws this season.

“As hard as I try not to, it is in my head,” Wroten said after the loss to the Mavs. “I work so hard and they trust me to make free throws. But missing six free throws is unacceptable.”

The Sixers will need to improve their mark from the free throw line to make teams pay for fouling.

3. Watch the wings
The Sixers will have their hands full slowing down Toronto’s perimeter pair of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.

While the Raptors rank 20th in the league in scoring at 96.9 points per game, Gay and DeRozan are prolific putting the ball in the net individually. Gay and DeRozan are averaging 20.6 and 20.5 points per game this season, respectively.

DeRozan has especially been on a tear in recent games. The 6-foot-7 guard scored 29 points in the Raptors’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday after tying his career high with 37 points against a defensive-minded Chicago Bulls team last Friday.

Gay had 30 points in that loss to the Blazers and appears to have found his rhythm after being traded to the Raptors at the deadline last season.

4. Injuries
Carter-Williams (foot) is day to day. He has missed the Sixers’ last four games.

Big men Nerlens Noel (knee), Kwame Brown (hamstring), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and guard Jason Richardson are out.

Toronto forward Quincy Acy (ankle) is day to day and listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

5. This and that
• Evan Turner has averaged 8.2 points on 35 percent shooting in 11 career games against the Raptors.

• The Raptors are second in the league in offensive rebounding with 14.0 a game.

• The Sixers are averaging 4.4 fourth-quarter turnovers. They are averaging 17.3 giveaways a game, 24th in the NBA.

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

Sixers-Nuggets 5 things: Defense needs to improve to stop skid

The Sixers (4-16) close out their four-game homestand against the Denver Nuggets (7-13) at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night (7 p.m./CSN and CSNPhilly.com).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Missing the stop sign
Apparently, tis the season for giving up points.

The Sixers' defense folded again in their latest loss, a 107-106 defeat to the Boston Celtics on Saturday night. The Sixers have allowed 107.8 points per game this season (25th in the NBA) and 109.1 during their six-game losing skid.

The Sixers let All-Star Isaiah Thomas do the damage on Saturday as he scored 37 points to become the fifth point guard to reach the 30-point plateau against them this season.

On the other side, the Nuggets' defense has actually been even worse. They rank 27th in the league with 109.5 points allowed per game.

2. Hello again
With Joel Embiid also making his debut this season, Dario Saric was always going to play second fiddle when it came to rookies on the Sixers' roster. That has certainly been the case now that Embiid has been putting up dominant numbers while Saric has been up and down.

However, Saric was on the same level as his fellow rookie against the Celtics. The Croatian broke out of a recent slump to notch a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds, which both matched career highs.

That performance also included this highlight-reel moment when Saric destroyed Jonas Jerebko's ankles (see video).

“I prepared a little bit more for this game,” Saric said (see story). “After I have some bad rhythm of five or six, maybe, games. Now I concentrate more. I try to give my best, try to play my best, try to think before everything happens.”

3. Clean the glass
The Sixers will need a similar effort from Saric on the boards if they want to compete with the Nuggets.

Denver is the No. 1 rebounding team in the entire NBA with 49.6 rebounds per game. The Nuggets attack the glass on both ends, too, as they are tops in defensive rebounding and No. 2 in offensive rebounding.

The offensive boards are also a main reason Denver sits third in second-chance points with 15.6 a night.

None of that bodes well for a Sixers team that rates just 20th overall in rebounding.

4. Injuries
Jahlil Okafor (gastroenteritis) is questionable. Robert Covington (knee/illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Gary Harris (foot) are out for the Nuggets.

5. This and that
• The Sixers lost both meetings with the Nuggets last season by a combined four points.

• Monday's game will feature both players who won the NBA's Rookie of the Month awards in Embiid and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray. Embiid is averaging 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in 23.2 minutes per game. Murray is putting up 9.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 21.7 minutes a night.

• In seven career games against the Sixers, Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried has averaged 7.6 points and 6.9 rebounds. Those are actually his lowest and third-lowest marks, respectively, against any NBA team.

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

Joel Embiid to play Monday vs. Nuggets; Jahlil Okafor questionable (illness)

CAMDEN, N.J. -- In following with his back-to-back plan, Joel Embiid will play Monday against the Nuggets at home and will not play Tuesday against the Grizzlies in Memphis. Embiid will be on a 28-minute restriction, established last week. 

"Obviously I wanted to play against Memphis," Embiid said after shootaround Monday. "Marc Gasol, great guy to play against. I wanted to do that but we've got Denver, especially at home. I know the fans that want to see team, that want to see me play. So that was a big factor into choosing, deciding to play this game."

The Sixers may be without fellow big Jahlil Okafor, who missed shootaround because of illness. He is questionable for Monday's game. 

Robert Covington will miss his second straight game with a left knee sprain. He also has flu-like symptoms. He will not travel to Memphis or New Orleans. 

Jerryd Bayless also remains sidelined with left wrist soreness. His status to join the team for the next two games on the road is questionable. 

Nerlens Noel, who is rehabbing with the Sixers, will not join the team on trip.