What just happened?
On Tuesday, two of the slowest and lowest scoring teams in the league were heading into a game that figured to be pretty ugly. Surprisingly, we saw a high-scoring, competitive first half. Then, as has been custom for the Sixers in some of their ugly losses this year (their Jan. 8 loss in Brooklyn comes to mind), they got blitzed in the third quarter. The Hornets, a mediocre shooting team from both three-point land and overall, had a 68.4 effective field goal percentage (eFG%) for the quarter, draining 4-5 from deep. They expanded their halftime lead of six to 18, effectively ending the game en route to their 111-99 win.
In the fourth, though, fans got to watch the Swaggy P show. Nick Young, who hadn’t played up until the fourth quarter, came in and did all the Nick Young things is beloved for. He started gunning immediately, hitting the Sixers’ first four shots of the period and six of his first seven, helping to bring them within eight. This being Nick Young, though, the bad comes with the good. For Nick Young, the bad is mainly defense. He recorded a defensive rating of 129, somehow only his third-worst of the season. Young now has allowed a defensive rating of 115 or worse in 12 of his 34 games played on the year.
So Far Against the Raptors...
In their final matchup of the season, the Sixers can lock up the series win against the Raptors. They’ve fared well against them so far this season, especially on defending three-pointers. The Sixers spotty defense has held Toronto to 29.8 percent from deep in their three games so far.
Last time out, the Sixers were dominated by Amir Johnson. Playing heavy minutes in the absence of Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas, Johnson went wild on the inside. He netted a 54.5 eFG%, pulled down 17.3 percent of available rebounds when he was on the floor, and even had an 18.3 assist percentage, his sixth-best on the year. While he hasn’t quite matched that level of play since, it’s worth noting that he has the ability to tear through the Sixers’ interior defense.
Matchup to Watch
The point guard play should be especially entertaining in this one. Jrue Holiday, still playing at an All-Star level, will get to square off against the Raps’ two-headed point guard beast. He’ll have to contend with two very different players.
Despite their contrasting games, Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry both struggle on the defensive end. That doesn’t bode well against an attacking player like Holiday, averaging 23.5 points and eight assists over his last four games. However, he did struggle in the Sixers’ last game against Toronto, with an effective field goal percentage of just 38.9.
Calderon has been very valuable to the Raptors (5.1 nERD). While still not shooting much, he has the third-highest usage rate of his career at 17.8. He’s also shooting phenomenally, recording a 55.3 eFG%, thanks mostly to his deadly three-point shooting. Calderon is setting up his teammates more than ever, with a 44.5 assist percentage. Holiday won’t have to worry much about playing tight perimeter D on Calderon, as the Spaniard is reluctant to drive the ball; he’s taking just 12.2 percent of his shots in the paint.
For as good as Calderon has been, Lowry has been even better. He’s putting up a 22.7 Player Efficiency Rating (PER), by far the highest of his career, and has a 9.3 nERD. KLow is as aggressive as they come; he consistently attacks the rim, taking 29.8 percent of his shots in the restricted area while making 56 percent of them. Lowry has also heeded coach Dwane Casey somewhat in reining himself in, dropping his turnover percentage to a career low (14.1).