Sixers set franchise record for first-half scoring percentage in win

Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) fends off Toronto Raptors’ Scottie Barnes during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia 76ers put up their second straight win on Friday night at home against Scottie Barnes and the Toronto Raptors. A wildly chaotic game, including a new franchise record for first-half scoring, gave the Sixers an edge, with a final score of 117-110.

The Sixers took the lead early in the half, thanks to an offensive effort led by James Harden. Going 5-5 from three in the first half and putting up seven assists, Harden even outscored Joel Embiid. Coming off of injury concerns ahead of the playoffs, this was a much-needed showing. But with a technical foul on head coach Doc Rivers and a push by Toronto late in the first, the Sixers led by just one point heading into the second. The first quarter ended with Philadelphia holding a 31-30 lead.

But the Sixers showed their absolute dominance in the second quarter. The team went on an incredible 30-11 run, capped off at the 3-minute mark with a rim-shaking dunk by De’Anthony Melton. Much of the effort was led by the bench, in particular, Paul Reed and Danuel House Jr., whose quickness and height could match the Raptors. Rivers even explored with lineups including Reed, House, and Jalen McDaniels – a unique combination that probably wouldn’t always be successful but held strong against Toronto.

A massive James Harden three closed out the first half up 20 points, 77-57. Philadelphia would wrap the quarter on 30/39 on 77% shooting — the highest first-half percentage in franchise history.

The lead did not last though as the Sixers failed to score for several minutes into the 3rd quarter, allowing the Raptors to cut the lead to just seven points in the third. A three-guard lineup with PJ Tucker was much less equipped to handle Toronto’s size and speed. They managed to pull away again early in the fourth (thanks to a combined common foul and technical foul by Christian Koloko on Embiid), but an outstanding effort by Scottie Barnes once again narrowed the lead to single digits.

The Raptors opened the fourth quarter with a 12-0 run, a far cry from the Sixers’ first-half shooting excellence. A whopping ten turnovers in the second half didn’t help, and with just five and a half minutes to go, the team led by just four points. But a three-pointer by Tucker, followed quickly by a Melton steal to Harden bucket, brought them back up to a nine-point lead. And from there, the deal was sealed.

The Sixers won 117-110, with both James Harden and Joel Embiid putting up 20-point double-doubles. In particular, Harden’s 23 points and 11 assists proved how much easier Philadelphia’s offense flows when he’s in the lineup, and more importantly, healthy.

It will be a fine line the Sixers walk between now and the end of the season when it comes to Harden and his health.

Up next for the Sixers

Philadelphia will next head to Milwaukee to take on one of Joel Embiid’s rivals for the MVP award Giannis Antetokounmpo and the league-topping Bucks on Sunday night. This game could not only affect the award race but the Eastern Conference playoff picture as the Bucks hold just a two game lead of the Boston Celtics. Whichever team finishes in the second seed in the East will likely be the Sixers’ opponent should they reach the Eastern Conference Semifinals.