To be completely honest with you, this game didn’t mean much for either side. Prior to tip-off, the Sixers’ fate had already been sealed. With an Indiana Pacers win against the Houston Rockets, the Sixers officially clinched the 6-seed in the Eastern Conference. What that seed means is they are looking at a matchup with the Boston Celtics in the first round, a team with whom they have a ton of recent history. The Raptors had already wrapped up the Eastern Conference’s second seed, so this game was clearly just a tune-up for both sides.
The Sixers came out of the blocks hot thanks to some strong inside play by Tobias Harris. He has been super impressive since the restart with his willingness to bang on the inside on offense. Thankfully, Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry drew three very quick fouls to start the game, and as a result, we didn't see much of him because he always finds a way to kill the Sixers. Joel Embiid also made his return to the court tonight after suffering a sprained ankle against the Trail Blazers. The Raptors did a great job at forcing him into bad shots when he wasn’t double teamed. Near the end of the quarter, he was hit on his hand and it had an obvious effect on his game. By the end of the quarter, the Sixers led, 32-25.
Kyle Lowry made the most of his second-quarter minutes, scoring 18 of his 19 first-half points in the second quarter. The Sixers could not find the answer to stopping the point guard, but their own backup Raul Neto did his best to keep pace. A few 3-pointers kept the Sixers afloat after a late charge by Toronto, and Philadelphia took the lead into halftime, 62-55.
Once the teams came back out for the second half, there was one notable change, Joel Embiid remained in the Sixers locker room due to that balky hand/wrist. He emerged from the tunnel shortly after, but it was announced he would not play the remainder of the game because of a prior minutes restriction. While this may be true, I’m sure the hand injury didn’t help Embiid’s case. Toronto finally woke up to start the second half and quickly closed the gap, even taking the lead at a few different points. For the most part, the third quarter was a back-and-forth fight for the lead, and it was the Raptors taking the lead into the final frame, 90-88.
The fourth quarter was filled with minutes from deep bench players; the starters on both sides had gotten their tune-up in and watched the rest from the sideline. Marial Shayok checked in for the Sixers, his first minutes in the restart, which should tell you all you need to know about this quarter. Mike Scott had another solid night and hit some important 3-pointers to give the Sixers some separation early on, but the Raptors bench unit would not quit. A 13-5 Toronto run tied things up at 121 with the Raptors having the opportunity to win with the final shot. The ball ended up in Stanley Johnson’s hands after a miss and he put the Raptors ahead with a short floater. The Sixers turned the ball over with their attempt and Toronto escaped with a 125-121 victory.
A fun game all around, even if it was a loss. The benches were having fun towards the end, becoming a fan section only added to it. In a game that didn’t mean much, it sure was entertaining. Next up for the Sixers is their regular season finale against the Rockets on Friday.
Tobias Harris: 22 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Furkan Korkmaz: 21 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists
Raul Neto: 17 points, 1 rebound, 5 assists