The last time Joel Embiid and the Toronto Raptors shared a basketball court, the former of the two walked away in shambles. The Cameroonian phenom played the worst offensive game of his career in the 76ers loss at Toronto, leaving Canada without a single point to his name. It was a very different story at Wells Fargo Center on Sunday evening, as the Philadelphia 76ers, behind 26 points from Tobias Harris, had their way with the Raptors, topping Toronto 110-104.
Ben Simmons was one assist shy of a triple double, posting 16 points, 11 boards and 9 assists, while rookie defensive juggernaut Matisse Thybulle connected on 5 of his 8 shots from deep as they led Philadelphia to their 12th straight home victory in as many attempts.
Kyle Lowry, in his 3rd game back from a broken left thumb that sidelined him for 11 contests, was a rare bright spark for Toronto in what was otherwise an unusually shoddy performance from his team. Lowry dropped 26 points and played with a tenacity on that did not seem to carry the infectious nature the charge-taking bulldog’s effort ridden performances usually does.
Beyond Lowry’s supreme effort, OG was about the only other Raptor who looked to be himself on Sunday night. The 3rd year product out of Indiana posted 19 points and 10 rebounds for his team, while making some fluid plays and sound decisions with the ball in his hands.
This was ugly from the beginning. Not always from a score disparity point of view, but consistently an aesthetic one. Mistimed passes, balls being dribble off feet, ugly fast breaks and rushed movements on offense were symptoms displayed by both teams early on. Turned out Philadelphia only caught a bug, Toronto was sick as a dog.
After a series of botched opportunities on the fast break and missed open shots in the half court, it felt like Toronto was down 10 at the end of the 1st quarter neared. In reality the Dinos were up a bucket, but that was largely owed to both teams being uncharacteristically bad. Philly woke up in the second frame, starting to catch fire on offense, fuelling themselves off the energy provided by their rowdy fanbase and aggressive defense. Tobias Harris took over the game midway through the 2nd, leading his team to 72% shooting performance in the quarter.
On the other side of the ball, there was a laundry list of things wrong with the Raptors, most of which were not going unnoticed on Twitter:
Philadelphia held Toronto to 36% shooting in the first half and took a 57-42 lead into the break.
The Raptors came out in the second half playing the same timid, sloppy brand of basketball which dug them this hole in the first place. The Sixers saw Toronto with their hands down, and punched them right in the mouth. Thybulle and Co. clamped down defensively, as the 76ers continued their onslaught, seeing their lead swell to as many as 20 points midway through the third frame.
With about 5 minutes left in the game, the Raptors began to shake this funk that they had been in all night. Toronto dialed up their defensive effort by an amount that is too high to quantify. Nurse had his team pick up full court with 4 minutes remaining like they were an AAU team playing their first of six tournament games.
Philadelphia began to crumble. Simmons rushed bringing the ball up the court, Embiid started taking dumb shots and the cohesiveness and poise which the Sixers had been playing with all night long, suddenly vanished. The Raps outscored their opponents 36-24 in the 4th, cutting it to 5 after a Siakam layup with just under 1 minute remaining. However time ran out on the Dinos as Thybulle converted a pair of free throws on the next possession to put the game out of reach.
Yes the Toronto Raptors have lost 3 in a row, a feat that has not occurred in over 1 year, but we watched a team crap the bed for 43 minutes, then try for 5. They lost by 6. Things, as articulated by Raptors LockedOn Host Sean Woodley, could be worse.
The Raptors go again tonight in Chicago as they look to put a halt to their 3 game skid before returning home to face Kawhi Leonard for the first time post-championship summer.