On Wednesday night, the Raptors (21-5) used a strong second-half to pull away from the Sixers (17-9) and win 113-102. Toronto was fueled by Kawhi Leonard, who scored 36 points and added 9 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas added 25 points and 8 boards off the bench and bullied Sixers center Joel Embiid, who scored a season low 10 points. Jimmy Butler led the way with 38 points for Philadelphia, and JJ Redick added 25 with strong outside shooting. Here are some of the biggest takeaways from the Sixers ninth loss of the season:
Joel Embiid is mortal
Sixers center Joel Embiid has been in the MVP conversation for the entire season thus far, but concerns about his high volume of minutes and the consequential fatigue that result have been raised. This fatigue may have showed Wednesday, as the big man struggled the entire game even after two off-days since Sunday’s game. Part of the center’s struggles came because of the defensive toughness of the Raptors, but a season-low 10 points on 17 shots certainly indicates that he may need to rest a couple games. Look for next week’s game against the Nets to be the perfect opportunity for Brett Brown to give the big man the rest he needs.
The Sixers can’t beat the Raptors with this current roster
When the two teams first met back in October, the Raptors handled the Sixers convincingly, showing themselves to be the superior team. There is no doubt that Jimmy Butler narrowed the gap between the teams, but the Raptors proved themselves still better on Wednesday. The Sixers have the talent at the top to match-up, but Toronto’s depth is far and beyond better. GM Elton Brand will likely use the next couple of months to gauge the market and make additions to help improve the team. My guess? The Sixers add Trevor Ariza, pushing Wilson Chandler to the bench and improving the team’s spacing and defensive versatility.
Jimmy Butler is a man on a mission
Butler put up 38 points and may have had his best all around performance in a Sixers uniform yet. While Simmons and Embiid struggled, Butler kept the team in the game for far longer than they should have been. Since he joined the team in mid-November, Butler is averaging just under 20 points per game, adding a much needed third piece that can get the Sixers buckets when other players are struggling. He showed this ability on Wednesday night and continues to prove the losses of Robert Covington and Dario Saric were worth the risk.
The Sixers need to fix the turnover issue
The problems that the Sixers have had turning the ball over have been well documented for years, and it is time to fix them. The Sixers turned the ball over 21 times on Wednesday night, erasing any chance they had to upset the Raptors on their home court. This was led by a total of 12 turnovers form the point guard position (five from TJ McConnell, 7 from Ben Simmons), many of which came from unforced errors. The acquisition of Jimmy Butler was meant to send a message to the rest of the league: the team is going to contend now. But, for the Sixers to even think about contending now, they have to move past the mental errors that lead to a high volume of turnovers.
Up next: The Sixers (17-9) head to Detroit to face the Pistons (13-9) on Friday night. The season series is tied at 1-1
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