The Sixers kicked off a two-game set north of the border when they fell to the Toronto Raptors 119-109 on Wednesday night. Strong offensive performances from Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey weren’t enough as the Sixers’ defensive problems continued. The Raptors scored 119 points and shot 54.8 percent from the field.
Here are some instant takeaways from the loss:
- Every time the Sixers play in Toronto, it’s an interesting clash of styles, given the difference in rosters, and that showed up early. Joel Embiid took advantage of his huge height advantage, making his first five shots of the game and scoring 11 points in the first quarter.
- The Raptors used their length and versatility to exploit the Sixers’ weaknesses in transition. They also got off to a scorching start shooting the ball, going 7 of 12 from downtown in the first quarter. Their 35-point first quarter was their best quarter of the season so far. Pascal Siakam was too much for PJ Tucker early on, going 5 of 6 in the first for 15 points, giving the Raptors an eight-point lead.
- The Sixers continued to be an absolute wreck defensively, especially in transition. That makes, given a starting lineup with Embiid, Tucker and Tobias Harris, that this team isn’t the best in the league at coming back on defense; however, their defensive issues are more troubling than the staff’s sluggishness. This corner three from Chris Boucher highlights what the Sixers have done over and over again this season: three defenders caught staring at the ball when no one recovers the shooter:
- This group with new parts hasn’t played a ton of basketball together, but those are gaps in basic communication, and the Sixers need to figure that out soon.
- The defensive issues were so glaring in the first half, but the Sixers offense managed to keep the scoreline competitive. Maxey eventually came alive for 14 points, a big reason why Philly entered halftime with 10 and not 20. Maxey would finish with 31 points, his first 30-plus-point game of the season.
- It felt like the Sixers offense was off pace in the first half. Many of their possessions have gone deep into the shot clock with nothing to do with possession. Some tough marks from Embiid and Maxey, but it wasn’t a lasting attack. They got into a much better flow in the third, getting easy Embiid baskets. The big guy would finish with 31 points on 12-of-16 shooting in the loss.
- Still, the Sixers lacked help from their supporting cast. Harris and Tucker shot a total of 4 for 15 tonight. Harris’ first field goal didn’t come until halfway through the third quarter.
- While Doc Rivers has often said the backup center situation this season will be fluid, his choices have been odd. Paul Reed, who has yet to find a rhythm, replaced a struggling Montrezl Harrell in the second half. While Reed certainly has more sense in terms of matching, it’s been hard to see the reasoning behind the save center’s decisions thus far.
- One final bright spot from this game would be that De’Anthony Melton seems to be finding some rhythm after a tough first few games as a Sixer. Melton had 12 points off the bench and was about the only life Philly had on the defensive side of the floor. He forced a few quick breaks to cut the Raptors’ lead to six, but the Sixers couldn’t get any closer than that.
- Rivers went with a small ball formation late in the fourth quarter, only bringing Embiid back into the game about two minutes out. It felt like an odd move considering Embiid’s performance and Tucker’s struggles. Either way, none of the buttons Rivers pushed tonight worked defensively.
You can listen to Dave Early and Jas Kang recap the disappointing loss on our latest podcast below.
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