Fired-up Joel Embiid Leads Sixers Past Raptors in Game 2

NBA: FEB 06 76ers at Bulls
CHICAGO, IL – FEBRUARY 06: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21) slam dunks the ball in action 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)

Game 2 of the expected bloodbath series between the Sixers and the Raptors tipped off in Philadelphia with the physicality picking up right from the start. A shoving match between Joel Embiid and OG Anunoby broke out just 88 seconds into the game resulting in technicals for both players.

Tempers settled as the game began to play out, but there was certainly a physical feel to the matchup all night. The impressive shooting from Fred VanVleet kept the Raptors in the game early, but the Sixers followed up their near-ideal Game 1 with an even more impressive performance tonight.

The game opened up in the second quarter when the Sixers outscored the Raptors 35-19 to carry in a 67-52 point lead into halftime. The impressive performance in Game 1 was tough to follow, but the Sixers managed to do just this.

Joel Embiid talked the most trash he has in quite some time and had the play to back it up. The superstar ended with 31 points and 11 rebounds but could have gone for far more if the game was closer. The Raptors went on a 20-2 run in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit as low as 11, but the game was never in doubt. The starters came back in to restore order and helped the team cruise to a 112-97 victory.

Sixers’ Free-Throw Battle

There was plenty of noise this week from the Raptors’ Head Coach, Nick Nurse, about the way Joel Embiid was officiated in the opening matchup. It has been a controversial topic across the league this season as Embiid led the league in free-throw attempts with 11.8 per game.

There have been multiple head coaches who have criticized how Embiid is refereed this season. Nurse seemed to be attempting to set the tone for the series, but it was ineffective in this matchup. The big man shot 12-14 at the free-throw line, including going 11-12 in the first quarter.

The Raptors made a conscious effort to muck up the middle and make life difficult for Embiid. While this fired Embiid up, and he found a way to be effective, he also took a few notable blows in the game. The Sixers’ superstar made sure to let Nick Nurse know his thoughts on his comments toward the end of this one.

When asked about the interaction following the game, Embiid told reporters, “I told him, respectfully, to stop bitching about calls.” Embiid continues to be the voice of the people with his brutally honest tone. The Kansas product has a legitimate point as him being bigger and stronger than his opponents does not change how the rules should be applied.

Tobias Harris’ Strong Play

In the first few games after James Harden joined the Sixers, it looked as if Tobias Harris would become an afterthought in the offense. Harris deserves a ton of credit for making adjustments in his game and becoming a major asset to the team. The 29-year-old has played arguably his most effective basketball during this recent stretch of games and played a vital role in this victory.

Tobias ended the matchup with 20 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, and was a +23 on the game. He also played a key role guarding Pascal Siakam, who led the Raptors in scoring throughout the regular season. Harris has been an ideal complementary piece in this Sixers offense and deserves credit for how much he contributed.

Tyrese Maxey’s Continued Dominance

Tyrese Maxey seemingly had his coming-out party in the opening matchup but followed it up with another impressive effort in Game 2. The Kentucky product ended with 23 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists in the matchup. He also shot 3 of 6 from beyond the arc, including one massive shot to quiet the Raptros’ fourth-quarter run.

Maxey has looked especially comfortable playing alongside James Harden. The young guard has picked up some of the scoring slack that was expected to be Harden’s role and allowed the veteran to take on more of a playmaking role. If this duo can continue to produce and Joel Embiid plays at his typical level, the Sixers may have their recipe for success lined up.

The Sixers now take a 2-0 lead and will head to Toronto for the next two matchups. Things have gone just as well as possible so far for the Sixers in the series. Danny Green even dunked tonight! The Sixers have to keep their foot on the gas for the rest of the series as they still have to win two more before anything is decided. The next game will tip off Wednesday at 8:00, and it is worth noting that the Sixers will be without Matisse Thybulle.

As it stands, the Sixers are heading into Wednesday’s matchup as two-point favorites on the road.

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