In Tuesday night’s game, the Philadelphia 76ers’ a lead, once as big as 21 points, was in danger for a lot in the fourth quarter. They only shot 41.3% from the floor and weren’t able to close out the game in convincingly. The bottom line is, though, is that the Sixers earned a tough victory in their final road game before the All-Star break.
The Sixers pulled out a 109-102 win over the Toronto Raptors at Amalie Arena to improve to 21-11 and snap a four game road losing streak.
Seth Curry (left ankle soreness) and Kyle Lowry (sprained left thumb) were both out.
Tobias Harris, who learned Tuesday that he missed out on the All-Star Game, led the Sixers with 23 points on eight-for-12 shooting, seven rebounds, and five assists.
Ben Simmons, an All-Star for a third consecutive season, put up 15 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists.
Furkan Korkmaz started in Curry’s place and scored 19 points.
Meanwhile, Joel Embiid recorded 18 points, shooting three for 13, and had 12 rebounds. He hadn’t scored under 25 points in a game since Jan. 14.
Three takeaways from the Sixers’ win:
Korkmaz’s impact early
As stated earlier, Curry (left ankle soreness) was sidelined tonight. This left an open spot in the starting five. Head coach Doc River decided to give it to Korkmaz. The starting spot evidently enough was able to break Korkmaz out of the three-for-21 shooting slump he’d been stuck in as he knocked down his first two long-range shots.
Korkmaz ended up with 16 first-quarter points on four-for-six shooting as the Sixers built a 37-18 lead. Korkmaz’s pump fake was a sneaky weapon last season, earned him three foul shots and produced a wide-open corner three after he sidestepped into his jumper with apparently boundless confidence. The same move freed him for yet another long-distance shot in the third quarter.
Defensively, Korkmaz wasn’t as impressive. This was the case when Norman Powell gave the Raptors a quick four points against the 23-year-old during a third-quarter Raptors run. To Korkmaz’s credit, he picked up a charge shortly after on Powell and looked to his defensive responsibilities throughout the night. Korkmaz’s dependability is still doubtful, but his early flurry changed the dynamic of the competition for some wing bench minutes. Isiah Joe only played four minutes and shot zero for two.
Mike Scott was back in the mix Tuesday, recording three points and five rebounds in 12 minutes, while Tyrese Maxey again didn’t play. Shake Milton provided 11 points and two assists in his second game back from a left ankle sprain.
What happened to Embiid?
Embiid scored on his first touch after sealing deep in the paint. His night went downhill from there, though, as he missed his next nine field goals in a showing that was somewhat similar of his scoreless game against the Raptors in 2019.
Toronto again double teamed Embiid well, often either forcing him to pass the ball immediately or take a rushed shot. They had several effective sneak attacks, too, with players like Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell catching Embiid off guard by sending late help from unpredictable angles.
Still, Embiid and the Sixers hurt themselves by playing sloppily at the end of the first half, lacking the sharpness they’d shown in the first quarter.
While Embiid has returned to earth after scoring a career-high 50 points last week against the Bulls, Tuesday’s contest is not a sign that there’s anything wrong with his game. It is an indication that he still has work to do when facing aggressive double teams. There’s nothing wrong with him looking to make the simple passes and letting his teammates gain from the double teams. Given the Raptors’ approach, though, that’s easier said than done. Embiid didn’t have much time to think where his outlets were in Tampa Bay.
Grinding out a defensive win
The Sixers won a physical game because of their high-level defense.
Toronto shot just 43% from the floor and 29.7% from beyond the arch. Like the Sixers on Sunday, the Raptors missed some open shots they’d typically expect to make. Every Sixer who played was engaged defensively, though, and Matisse Thybulle was a standout with three blocks.
Not every win is going to be pretty, but the Sixers will likely need to come out on top in these types of games once the playoffs arrive. Harris’ fourth-quarter scoring was crucial on a night in which Embiid wasn’t the Sixers’ typical go-to option. Harris showed why an All-Star selection certainly would’ve been merited.
The 21-11 Sixers next game is Thursday against the 15-15 Dallas Mavericks.