The Sixers traveled to Toronto for a chance to sweep the Raptors and give them some well-needed rest before the next round. The 2:00 start seemed to have the team out of sorts, and the Raptors were able to assert themselves effectively for the first time this series.
No Sixers player eclipsed 22 points, and the Raptors noticeably increased their physicality. Toronto got back to their brand of basketball and showed more desire to win in the matchup. The Sixers turned the ball offer 16 times and allowed 13 offensive rebounds in the matchup. Ultimately the Raptors secured a 110-102 victory to extend the series.
Tyrese Maxey Needs To Assert Himself More
It has been terrific to watch the growth of Tyrese Maxey as the Sixers established a legitimate Big 3 this season. The scoring ability of Maxey has been unlocked alongside James Harden, and he has become a valuable part of the offense. The impressive production of the 21-year-old is no longer a feel-good story but a requirement for the Sixers’ success. This is especially true when Joel Embiid and James Harden are not feeling it- which was the case in this matchup.
Joel Embiid was noticeably grabbing at his thumb throughout the game and was 0-5 from the field to start the game. The MVP candidate found his stride for a stretch in the second half and ended with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 turnovers. Harden struggled from the field, shooting 5-17 overall and 2-8 on three-point attempts. The Raptors often doubled Embiid before he received the ball and the return of Scottie Barnes made a major impact on their defensive intensity.
While Tyrese Maxey was far from stellar, he must keep his confidence high and stay aggressive in the offense. The second-year guard had 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting 4-12 from the field. The lightning-quick pace is the Sixers’ best advantage against the lengthy Raptors defense. Philly must run sets to keep Maxey involved, and the sophomore must trust himself to capitalize. Maxey seemingly has not realized how good he already is.
Joel Embiid’s Thumb “Can’t Get Worse”
The play of Embiid was worth noting, but the status of his thumb is the larger storyline. The fear within the organization is that Embiid has torn a ligament, and he is set to have an MRI once the team returns to Philly. This is incredibly frustrating for a guy who is at the peak of his game and seemingly cannot stay healthy for a postseason.
Their superstar has made it clear he has no plans to miss any time, but the level he will be able to play at is the larger question. Embiid mentioned it having an impact on his passing and dribbling following the game. Even at half his ability, Embiid is still more productive than most players, but this certainly is a storyline to watch. The tone with which Doc Rivers and the rest of the organization are speaking on it is not encouraging, but more information is sure to come out soon.
Tobias Harris Continues To Shine for Sixers
With so much attention on the Sixers’ leading trio, Tobias Harris has shined this series. This production continued in Game 4, with Harris truly becoming a superstar in his role. The 29-year-old ended this matchup with 15 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 7 of 12 from the field. Tobi continues to make sharp decisions and has had an extremely impressive defensive performance in the series.
It is not easy to alter your style of play to better fit the offense, but this is exactly what Harris has done since the arrival of James Harden. The impact he has had on this series has been far beyond what the box score shows. Harris continued this effort in the Game 4 matchup.
This was a frustrating loss for the Sixers as the game was certainly there for the taking. The game was up for grabs throughout its entirety, even with the Sixers’ struggles. This should not be too large of a concern as the series will return to play on Monday back in Philadelphia. Splitting the two games in Toronto is a solid performance and expect a better effort in front of the home crowd. Teams who have gone up 3-0 are 143-0 in the series, so hopefully, this is a record the Sixers do not find themselves breaking.