The Philadelphia 76ers played their third game this month against one of the teams that will likely challenge for the Eastern Conference Championship, the Toronto Raptors. After losing to Boston on opening night and the Milwaukee Bucks last week, the Sixers had to stake some kind of claim.
Things looked promising for the Sixers in the first quarter. They took the lead 11-10 after a Leonard three pointer, and then the Raptors took advantage of many, many first quarter and first half turnovers.
Toronto had a 16-5 run in the first quarter to take the lead after the first quarter 35-26. The turnovers didn’t stop in the second quarter, either, and the Raptors used those for another 17-6 run mid-way through the second quarter to take a 67-53 lead at the half.
Through 24 minutes, Ben Simmons had more turnovers (7) than points (6), and backup center Amir Johnson had four turnovers in seven minutes of action.
The Sixers committed 14 total turnovers in the first half and looked completely lost offensively. Joel Embiid was 6-12. Simmons was 2-4, and JJ Redick was 1-7 (1-5 3pt%). There were only two decent first half performances: Mike Muscala’s nine points off the bench and Covington’s two three pointers which ended both of Toronto’s big runs in each quarter.
Kyle Lowry’s 12 and Jonas Valanciunas’s 15 in 11 minutes paced the Raptors first half along with their 37.5% shooting from three. Kawhi Leonard only had nine points in the first half after going to the locker room with an apparent eye injury.
The third quarter was ... an improvement. Only four turnovers were committed, but the damage was already done as the Raptors blew the game open scoring 38 in the quarter and leading by as many as 26 at one point before a mini-run closed the margin to 105-86.
That mini-spark from the bench combined with an 8-0 run to start the fourth cut the lead to 13 with a little over ten minutes in the quarter. A Robert Covington three cut the lead to single digits (112-103) with seven and a half to go in the game.
Hope? There’s hope, you say?
Oh, there are those turnovers again. Back to back turnovers by Simmons and Embiid followed by a Danny Green three pointer put the Raptors back up by double digits with 5:15 left. The Sixers refused to go away as the team continued to pick at the lead with some great defensive plays by Simmons leading to an Embiid three pointer that cut the lead to six with 3:30 to go.
Simmons’s 11th turnover led to another Raptors fast break two and offensive rebound followed by a Kawhi three to make it 124-111 with two minutes left. Within the last three minutes, the Raptors scored 12 unanswered before a Fultz free throw with under a minute to go. The scrappy effort to comeback did not come to fruition. Sixers drop to 4-4.
Joel Embiid finished with 31 and 11 rebounds.
Simmons tallied 11 points, 10 assists, and eight rebounds, but those 11 turnovers were a killer. Redick added 13, and Covington added 15 (4-8 from 3pt%).
Kawhi Leonard led the Raptors with 31 and seven rebounds. Lowry had 20, and Valanciunas had 23 off the bench in 17 minutes. As a team, the Raptors shot 40% from three.
The Sixers still have not won a game in Toronto since 2012.