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Sixers’ defense embarrassing in brutal loss to Raptors

The Sixers transition and three-point defense were exposed in a big way by the Raptors in a loss in Toronto Wednesday night.

Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

The Sixers kicked off a two-game set north of the border when they fell to the Toronto Raptors by a score of 119-109 Wednesday night. Strong offensive showings from Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey were not enough as the Sixers’ defensive woes continued. The Raptors put up 119 points and shot 54.8 percent from the field.

Here are some instant takeaways from the loss:

First Quarter

  • Every time the Sixers play Toronto, it’s an interesting clash of styles, given how different the rosters are, and that was on display early. Joel Embiid took advantage of his massive height advantage, making his first five shots of the game and putting up 11 first quarter points.
  • The Raptors used their length and versatility to exploit the Sixers’ weaknesses in transition. They also got off to a scorching hot start shooting the ball, going 7 of 12 from downtown in the first quarter. Their 35-point first quarter was their highest-scoring quarter of the season so far. Pascal Siakam was too much for P.J. Tucker in the early going, going 5 of 6 in the first for 15 points, allowing the Raptors to jump out to an eight-point lead.

Second Quarter

  • The Sixers continued to be an absolute train wreck defensively, especially in transition. It makes, given a starting lineup with Embiid, Tucker, and Tobias Harris, that this team isn’t the best in the league in getting back on defense; however their defensive issues are more troubling than slow personnel. This Chris Boucher corner three highlights what the Sixers have done over and over this season: three defenders caught watching the ball while no one picks up the shooter:
  • This group with new pieces hasn’t played a ton of basketball together, but these are lapses in basic communication, and the Sixers have to figure this out soon.
  • The defensive issues felt so glaring in the first half, but the Sixers’ offense was able to keep the score competitive. Maxey finally came alive for 14 points, a big reason Philly went into halftime down 10 and not 20. Maxey would finish with 31 points, his first 30+ point game of the season.

Third Quarter

  • It felt like the Sixers’ offense was out of rhythm in the first half. Many of their possessions went deep into the shot clock without actually doing anything with the possession. Some tough makes from Embiid and Maxey, but it was not a sustainable attack. They got into a much better flow in the third, getting Embiid easy 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 combined 4 of 15 tonight. Harris’ first field goal didn’t come until halfway through the third quarter.
  • While Doc Rivers has said often that the backup center situation this season will be fluid, his choices have been odd. Paul Reed, who has yet to be able to get into some sort of rhythm, replaced a struggling Montrezl Harrell in the second half. While Reed certainly made more sense matchup-wise, it’s been hard to see the reasoning behind the backup center decisions so far.

Fourth Quarter

  • One last positive from this game would be that De’Anthony Melton seems to be finding a groove after a rough first couple of games as a Sixer. Melton had 12 points off the bench and was just about the only life Philly had on the defensive end of the floor. He forced a couple of fast breaks to cut the Raptors’ lead to six, but the Sixers could not get it closer than that.
  • Rivers went with a small ball lineup late in the fourth quarter, not bringing Embiid back into the game until there was about two minutes left. This felt like a weird move given Embiid’s performance and Tucker’s struggles. Regardless, 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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