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Siakam sizzles, Harden struggles as Thybulle-less Sixers lose in Toronto

Pascal Siakam had an unreal night, while James Harden struggled mightily down the stretch in a potentially costly loss.

Toronto Raptors play the Philadelphia 76ers Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Pascal Siakam looked liked the best player on the planet Thursday night.

His huge performance — and James Harden’s struggles — led to the Sixers losing to the Raptors, 119-114, in Toronto. The loss drops the Sixers to 49-31 and sets up a potential first-round matchup with these very Raptors with two games remaining.

The Sixers were without Matisse Thybulle, who was ineligible to play. The Raptors were able to beat the Sixers without Fred VanVleet or OG Anunoby.

Here are a few observations from the game.

First quarter

  • Other than continuing to bleed offensive rebounds, the Sixers got off to a strong start defensively. Every shot Toronto took felt like it was contested and long.
  • Offensively, Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris picked up where they left off the other night, hitting their first two threes. James Harden with a couple nice dimes and four early assists. Joel Embiid doing well not to settle. 15-2 start.
  • Danny Green, on the night he finally got his his 2018-19 championship ring, having an effective first quarter. He’s done well guarding Pascal Siakam and hit his only attempt from three.
  • Sixers made 7 of their first 8 threes a game after setting a franchise record with 23 made treys. This team taking and making more from beyond the arc is a very pleasantly surprising development.
  • Harden looks good early. He’s shown some burst turning the corner and is picking apart the Raptors’ defense. He’s up to six assists already.
  • The Raptors made a late push — which you figured would happen — but overall a really strong start from the Sixers. Embiid did well to let the game come to him a bit, and scored a team-high 10 points in the first. Sixers up 33-26 after one. Would be a larger lead if not for seven offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points for Toronto.

Second quarter

  • A Paul Reed sighting! Doc Rivers went to Bball Paul over DeAndre Jordan. Bless his heart. Unfortunately the Reed minutes got off to a rough start with Reed falling on a roll, leading to a turnover, and then Reed dribbling off himself for another turnover after a defensive stop which led to a Toronto three. Raptors have caught fire and are now up 35-34.
  • There ya go, Bball Paul! Nice put-back dunk on a Harris missed floater.
  • Apparently it’s just a rule that if the Sixers play the Raptors, they have to be bad every time Embiid goes to the bench. Now, a 14-3 run by Toronto and it’s up 40-36.
  • They’re trapping Harden hard with Embiid off the floor and I’m not sure that’s their best strategy. Harden is making the right read on just about every play. Hasn’t led to points every time, but the Sixers have plenty of firepower to make them pay.
  • OK, Doc, you have to play Paul Reed. He’s already made a much larger impact than Jordan has in just about any stint as a Sixer. Reed had five points and five rebounds (two offensive) in less than seven minutes. Play. Him.
  • Man, neither team can miss from deep. The Raptors are 6 of 7 in the second. Meanwhile, Shake Milton hit a couple corner threes with Toronto swarming the hell out of Embiid. Fun night, if you like offense.
  • The Sixers weathered that three barrage well and go into the locker room with a 60-56 lead. They cleaned up the rebounding a bit and continued to shoot the three ball at a high rate (11 of 19). Embiid with a strong close to the half and he’s got 14 points and six rebounds. Maxey with 10 points. Harden with eight points and eight assists to only one turnover.

Third quarter

  • The Harden-Embiid pick-and-roll is leading to so many good looks for the Sixers. Harden having just an OK shooting night, but he already has 10 assists and is just controlling everything on offense.
  • Pascal Siakam is really good, but the Sixers are making him look like Giannis. He’s almost single-handedly keeping Toronto in this game. You have to hope/think that Embiid takes over that assignment in the guts of the game. Green continues to be the most effective of the guys that have guarded him.
  • Milton is now 3 of 3 from three, but Siakam can’t freaking miss. He has 27 points and nine assists.
  • Siakam hits another basket and he’s up to 29 points. That’s really the story of the game. The Sixers’ complete inability to even slow him down is why they find themselves down, 87-85, heading into the fourth. They’re getting plenty of offense. Embiid might have to take over that defensive assignment a bit sooner than you’d like.

Fourth quarter

  • Embiid-less minutes to start the fourth. Hold on to your butts.
  • I realize and respect NBA officials not letting Harden grift because of the new rules emphasis, but man, now the guy just can’t get actual calls. With that said, Harden continues to struggle turning the corner. The burst that he looked like he had early has dissipated.
  • Reed providing energy at least with a couple more offensive rebounds, but the Sixers getting worked yet again without Embiid on the floor. Raptors now up 97-89.
  • Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa looking just as unstoppable as Siakam, both eclipsing 20 points. This a very good Toronto team. I take nothing away from them, but they’re just making a lot of tough, contested shots.
  • Maxey trying to will the Sixers a bit here with a couple aggressive drives to the rim. He needs to continue to attack these holes in the Raptors’ defense. He’s up to 20 points and has the Sixers to within three. Embiid is now guarding Siakam and it’s making a huge difference.
  • For all the good Harden was doing early, he has really struggled down the stretch. He airballed a step-back three and it feels like the offense is just slow when he’s bringing the ball up. It seems like the Sixers are just bleeding the shot clock and forcing up bad looks.
  • Why the hell was Tobias Harris guarding Siakam? That’s a dagger and-one on a put-back as the Sixers go down 118-111.
  • Siakam was unreal with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Trent Jr. was tremendous in a supporting role with 30 points. Sure felt like the Sixers could’ve used another perimeter defender out there tonight! They also could’ve used a significantly better performance from Harden, who was just 3 of 12 on the night. Again, Embiid was a plus-8 in a game the Sixers lost by five.