This past week I took my first trip to Canada, the Toronto area specifically, to spend the holidays with my girlfriend’s family and to watch the Sixers take on the Raptors. It pretty much fit perfectly. The game was on December 23rd so as not to interfere with any major holiday festivities.
First let’s get to my impressions of the Air Canada Centre. It’s only slightly larger than the Wells Fargo Center and you can find it at the dead end of a busy city street. Only a few blocks away from the Rogers Centre, I thought it would be a more chaotic atmosphere but it was as calm as could be. Unless there were parking lots a few blocks away, all I could see was foot traffic during my ten minute walk from the hotel. The only thing that made me feel at home so far was the ticket scalper just outside the arena.
We were lucky enough to have access to the Platinum Club before the game. It was impressive, a tad too fancy for us regular folk, and made the Cadillac Grille at Wells Fargo Center look like a truck stop Denny’s. The concession areas were orderly, super clean, and any employee we encountered showered us with that well-known Canadian courtesy.
Unfortunately the next part became the least enjoyable of the night. That was watching a dreadful performance by the Philadelphia 76ers. I made it a point not to check on Joel Embiid’s game status from the night before. Although management usually plays the yo-yo game on the fans at home games, ‘cause you know those tickets sold on game day do help line their pockets. Why be honest with them from the start? Much to my surprise Embiid was warming up! Now I was getting excited. Maybe we can put an end to this brutal month of losing. After witnessing carolers sing the US and Canadian anthems and standard pyrotechnic introductions, it was game time. I need to point out a great moment just before tip-off. The Raptors’ dancers were dressed as Santa’s little helpers at mid-court and Joel Embiid stood about a foot away from their dance routine. He was the only one out there and looked like he was about to join in!
The game never had any offensive flow from either squad, except for the Raptors mid-way through the third to beginning of the fourth quarter. Embiid established his presence early, hitting shots inside and out. He looked tired with this being his first game in about a week and a half so nothing surprising there. I can’t say with confidence that it would have been much closer had he played more than 23 minutes, mostly because the bulk of the team played so poorly.
In the NBA, when you are losing by double-digits to a team that is much better at taking care of the basketball and much better at making their foul shots, only luck and going bonkers from three-point land will save you. Well they were bad at that too. I overheard a few Raptors fans saying how sloppy the Sixers were playing. I couldn’t say I saw differently. Dario Saric, Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless each had a pass at some point in the contest that went to no one. It was comical and sad at the same time. Only if you super-imposed eight-year-olds on the court would you have been able to accept such carelessness. It’s getting tiresome for the fans and I’m sure many associated with the Sixers. Game after game they make it easy on their opponents. Passes to no one in-particular. Cross court passes no one has any business making. Unnecessary fast break passes to a teammate who is in no position to advance the ball further. Ben took thirteen shots but passed up three shots that could have been layups. Bayless continues to pout. TJ McConnell needs to start getting some of Bayless’ minutes and now! Richaun Holmes still rides the bench when a spark is needed. The Sixers were dead to the world for most of the second half, yet Brett Brown leaves one of his highest energy players on the bench until garbage time.
The coach does acknowledge when they play poorly but he still makes too many excuses and the fans are tired of hearing them. After silly, sloppy games, including the one in Toronto, please keep the injury excuses to yourself. Hearing that we’re missing JJ and that Joel is just getting back into the swing of things is getting to be old hat. Use your roster. Play TJ and Ben at the same time more often. Let Ben play off the ball so he will be forced to shoot more. Play Holmes when your team is showing no life. It reminds me of Andy Reid’s playbook that he would follow regardless of the score. It is hurting the team’s record and until they beat another soon-to-be .500 squad, aka the New York Knicks, they were floundering. As for that game up north, I disagree with Mr. Skywalker. This went just how I thought it would.