Takeaways From the 76ers’ Disappointing Loss to the Raptors

NBA: FEB 06 76ers at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) waits for the play to set during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Chicago Bulls on February 6, 2022 at the United Center in Chicago, IL. (Photo by Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire)

There is no break in the Philadelphia 76ers‘ grueling schedule to end the season as they most recently faced off against the 40-31 Toronto Raptors. The 7th place Raptors are a scrappy team loaded with long, athletic players, which is always a matchup that gives the Sixers trouble, and this was put on display in last night’s loss. The 76ers scored just 51 points in the final three quarters and 34 points in the second-half in the disappointing loss.

Rebounding Concerns for the 76ers

The rebounding concerns have been evident with the 76ers throughout the season as they rank last in the NBA in rebounds per game and 28th in rebounding percentage. In this Raptors matchup, the Sixers were out-rebounded 56-40 and also allowed 20 offensive boards. Allowing an opposing team to get this many additional offensive possessions never results well, and that was evident in this matchup. In total, the Raptors had 20 more shot attempts than the 76ers. While the Sixers had a better shooting percentage from the field, the sheer number of attempts cost them the loss.

Responsible for a good portion of these rebounding issues is the uncertainty at the backup center position. The DeAndre Jordan experience has worn its welcome out very quickly as it is very clear he does not have much left in the tank. If this were a few years ago, Jordan would be an excellent fit among the second unit but rolling out a lob-threat center who can no longer jump is not effective for the 76ers.

Largely due to Tobias Harris‘ foul trouble, Doc Rivers did give a new face a shot in the matchup. At the tail end of the third quarter and to begin the fourth, Paul Reed was given a chance. The Raptors had a major advantage in size and athleticism, so Bball Paul was a solid choice, but he was only given 3 minutes of play, and his impact was not able to be seen.

Matisse Thybulle is an X-Factor

The starting lineup of Joel Embiid, James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Tobias Harris, and Matisse Thybulle has fit together even better than expected in its early time together. Coming into last night’s matchup, the group had a plus 19.4 net points per 100 possession during their minutes together. The addition of James Harden has already proven to unlock Matisse Thybulle‘s cutting ability in a way that was not seen before, but the dynamic of the Sixers offense completely changes when the elite perimeter defender is also hitting shots.

The Washington product scored 8 points in the first 3 minutes of the game, including two confident three-pointers. He ended with 12 points on the game, but the impact these early minutes had on opening up the Sixers’ offense was immense. The first-quarter lead was pushed all the way to 16 early on when things were clicking on all cylinders. The Philadelphia 76ers carried a 10 point lead after the first quarter before things went downhill.

There have been some frustrations with the lack of offensive progression in Thybulle’s game, but there are some signs of growth in this area. If the 25-year-old can continue to improve his offensive game, it is scary to think about what his potential could be.

Joel Embiid is Still Human

It is easy to forget at times, but Joel Embiid still has his off days. The MVP candidate struggled to find his touch and had several of his normal shots roll off the rim. Embiid ended with 21 points and 13 rebounds but shot just 6 of 20 from the field. He forced his way to the free-throw line for 11 attempts and had a huge block late in the fourth quarter, but Embiid was short of the sky-high bar for his play.

It also is worth noting that Embiid saw the team dentist after the game for a tooth that he chipped during the game. The big man was listed as questionable due to back soreness, and the ultimate decision for him to play was not made until shortly before the game. With just 12 games remaining in the season, you can see the milage beginning to wear on Embiid. The superstar has left it all out on the court all season, and with playoffs right around the corner, it is important the 76ers get his legs right.

Giving Embiid a night off tomorrow could be a good start to this as the Philadelphia 76ers will face off with the Miami Heat once again. While there is still a lot on the line in terms of the Eastern Conference seeding and Joel Embiid’s MVP race, making sure Embiid is rested and ready for the playoffs is the biggest key for the team.

The play of Embiid largely represented the play of the rest of the team as this was a game the Sixers should have come out on top. The Raptors have a ton of young talent but rested Fred VanVleet, who is averaging 21.1 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 4.6 rebounds this season. The 76ers even had a chance to win it at the end, but an offensive foul by James Harden, which was upgraded to a flagrant one, ultimately sealed the loss.

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