The Sixers won a nailbiter tonight against the Toronto Raptors, 100-93. Here is somewhat of a running diary, quarter-by-quarter, to serve as your recap.
Q1: Joel Embiid is back after missing Sunday’s “game” against Cleveland with back tightness. Tony Brothers is taking a night off from being the Grinch who stole Christmas to officiate tonight’s game. Very decisive pick-and-roll by Tobias nets him a layup. I despise Aron Baynes. Excellent start from Tobias, with nine of the Sixers’ first 11 points. Shake Milton subs in for Danny Green with 4:44 left. Embiid scores his first points on a 3-pointer after a jab-step. Matisse Thybulle enters in Furkan Korkmaz’ usual spot. Simmons continues to shy away from contact at the rim offensively. A player his size shouldn’t be trying so many wonky floaters and drifting from the basket this much. Embiid stays in all the way until the 1:39 mark, as the Sixers go to an all-bench lineup (Maxey, Milton, Thybulle, Scott, Howard). Sixers go completely cold on offense — failing to convert a field goal for the final four minutes of the quarter — and Toronto hits two 3s to give the visitors an 11-point lead after one.
Q2: The lid is taken off the rim by — you guessed it — a Mike Scott layup through contact. He converts the three-point-play. Good lord, Simmons got hacked and it went uncalled. Damn you, Brothers. Timeout, Sixers down 14, the offense looking completely out of sorts. The Raptors are everywhere defensively. It seems so hard for the Sixers to score at all. Embiid is laying it all out there, up to 10 hard-earned points. Tobias Harris has gotten blocked 200 times in this quarter. The Sixers are shooting 22 percent from the field with five minutes left in the half. Two more Joel free throws puts the Sixers down nine. The Sixers are shooting 19 percent from 3, so Embiid is being doubled on each catch in the post. Sixers cut the deficit to one with under two minutes left in the half, very inspired play in the latter part of this quarter. Absolutely monstrous quarter for Embiid. Sloppy play in the waning moments helps Toronto extend the lead a bit to close the half up eight. Embiid with 18 points on 11-for-11 shooting from the free throw line.
Q3: Massive recovery block from Joel on Baynes. Must’ve felt cathartic. I really like what Seth Curry is showing so far in this one. He gets fouled on a drive and converts two free throws to put the Sixers down six. Sixers are struggling to defend the 3-point line. Four fouls on Baynes with nine to go in the quarter. Technical foul called on Simmons. OG hits another 3, Sixers down 12. Oh no. Oh no. Embiid gets doubled and crumples to the ground, holding his right leg. He got up and walked back to the locker room. Basketball continues to happen, yet it is difficult to type with my hands wrapped in prayer beads. According to Twitter, Embiid has returned to the bench. I think this is a good thing? I don’t know. Embiid is checking back in, I repeat: Embiid is checking back in. Exhale. The Sixers are down 11 and frankly, I don’t care, thank god Joel is okay. Okay, back to the game. Tobias hits a transition 3 to cut the Raps’ lead to eight. Embiid and-1! Great ball movement. Meanwhile, really impressive game from Tobias, who’s up to 20 points. After Shake MIlton gets fouled on a drive with 2.4 seconds remaining, he hits two free throws to (somehow) make this a tie game entering the fourth quarter.
Q4: Lineup that begins the fourth: Shake, Seth, Matisse, Scott, Embiid. Joel still getting double-teamed on every catch. Absolutely love Shake’s defense thus far in the season, he takes a charge from Stanley Johnson, which must feel somewhat like getting tackled by a refrigerator. Thybulle has played decent defensively tonight, but still gives you nothing on offense. Sixers aren’t getting a favorable whistle at all. Embiid gets called for a foul, bounces the ball hard against the floor and garners a technical foul. Sixers need to regroup as the raptors go up seven with nine minutes left. Rivers needs to get Joel a rest here. And he does, as Dwight comes in with 7:30 left, along with Simmons and Danny Green. Sixers down five and must survive some non-Joel minutes. Danny Green has been very bad thus far this season. Embiid back in with 5:38 left, as is Aron Baynes. Tie game on a Tobias Harris jumper, which leads to a Nick Nurse timeout. Five minutes left. Aron Baynes pump-fake, shot clock-expiring three, of course. Siakam picks up his fifth foul with 3:28 remaining. Update! That Baynes 3 was a shot clock violation. Sixers up one, somehow. Enormous bucket by Tobias is followed by two free throws by Joel, Sixers up four. Incredible play out of the stoppage by the Sixers nets Seth Curry a wide open 3. Sixers up five with a minute left. Turnover Raptors, they have to foul Harris with 25 seconds left. He hits both. Gargantuan two-way performances by Joel Embiid and Tobias grant the Sixers an incredibly improbable win and move the team’s record to 3-1.