NBA Game Preview – Raptors Vs Sixers March 21

Dean Riley - 20 Mar 2022

Chances are the Toronto Raptors may still be without playmaker Fred VanVleet when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday, March 21st. And with OG Anunoby and Malachi Flynn still out as well, they’ll have their work cut out for them on the court on gameday.

VanVleet has missed several of Toronto’s recent games, as well as five straight games earlier this month before his return against the Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs.

While VanVleet was initially ruled out under the assumption of a well-deserved rest, concerns over the why and when are undoubtedly starting to grow.

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Naturally Better With VanVleet

During Saturday’s game against the Suns, the Raptors started Armoni Brooks in the place of VanVleet and shifted Precious Achiuwa into the starting line. Needless to say, it worked out pretty well.

But VanVleet brings something different and “more” to the table, because whenever he steps out onto the court, everyone instantly wants to be and play better. Such is the magic of Fred VanVleet and his role as leader of the pack.

With all due respect to Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam, replacements are seldom seen to be better than the man himself and everything the star starter brings to the party. What’s more, the mere presence of VanVleet completely changes the way in which opponents defend when playing against the Raptors. And whether he makes or misses a three-point shot, he’s doing his team a whole lot of good simply by going at it non-stop.

Fixing James Harden

The Philadelphia 76ers, meanwhile, have a few fixes of their own in the pre-Playoffs pipeline, most of which involve James Harden.

When Harden first made his debut for the Sixers after the All-Star break, everything seemed great. Harden and Joel Embiid dominated the competition with four straight wins.

But last Thursday’s (big) game against the Brooklyn Nets caused a lot of concern when the dynamic duo took the fall. 

Even though the Sixers remain in great shape, they’re now in a race against time for ironing out the chemistry kinks in time for the postseason. But with 15 games remaining, and allowing for a rest or two for Harden, it’s not as if all is lost.

It furthermore became clear following Monday night’s 114-110 loss to the Denver Nuggets, that Sixers coach Doc Rivers is beginning to realise the importance of getting Harden into the right places at the right times.

And that’s all that really remains doing right now.

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