3 Observations from the Sixers victory against the Raptors

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Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The Philadelphia 76ers faced off against the pesky Toronto Raptors on Friday night. The Sixers were coming off a much needed win against the Dallas Mavericks after a tough road trip where they loss three out of four. The Raptors came into tonight’s matchup winners of their last three contest as they try to climb the standings and get better seeding in the NBA Eastern Conference Play-In tournament.

The Sixers’ offense was humming in early and often in this matchup. The game started out with two three pointers from PJ Tucker and when the Sixers can get any offense from Tucker, it’s a good sign. After a tight first quarter, the Sixers blew the game wide open in the first half, taking a 77-57 lead into halftime. The Toronto Raptors came out ready to make a push and started the third quarter on a 12-0 run to make the Sixers sweat.

The Raptors implored a strategy to guard Joel Embiid with one of their wings and double immediately with whatever big was on the court. The big fella didn’t force it and picked his spot where he could take advantage of his matchups. With so much attention on Embiid, James Harden was able to get going and have an efficient bounce back game.

In the end, the Sixers were able to hold on for a 117-110 victory against the Raptors. Joel Embiid and James Harden led the way for the Sixers while Scottie Barnes paced the Raptors with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.

Stars Leading the Way

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)

Joel Embiid and James Harden led the way for the Sixers in this matchup against the Raptors. Joel Embiid had scored 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and let the game come to him with the Raptors swarming him all night. With Embiid not forcing the issue, James Harden stepped and had a bounce back performance. His last two outings against The Chicago Bulls and Dallas Mavericks weren’t his best this season.

Against the Bulls, he was hampered by his Achilles issue and he was rusty against the Cavs after being out 4 straight games. Harden ended the night with 23 points and 11 assists and had some pop to his step. He a moment in the fourth quarter where he crossed up OG Annoy and scored a layup. When Harden looks the way he did tonight, the Sixers are tough bunch to beat.

Maxey Locking Up on Defense

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) drives as Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) and forward Georges Niang (20) defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Toronto. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

To start the season, Tyrese Maxey wasn’t known for his defense and teams tried to pick on him defensively. Credit to Maxey, he has improved his defense and has been showing strides late in the season. Against the Raptors, he took on the challenge of guarding Fred VanVleet and boy did he lock him up.

He started by pressuring VanVleet 94 feet and helping to take the Raptors out of early offense. He then fought through screens and made him uncomfortable all evening. VanVleet ended the night with 19 points but shot 5-17 from the field, including 3-10 from beyond the arc. VanVleet was visually frustrated about his inefficient evening. If Maxey can continue to make stride like he showed this evening, it will be great for his development.

BBall Paul Solidifying His Role

Toronto Raptors’ O.G. Anunoby (3) goes up to shoot against Philadelphia 76ers’ James Harden (1) and Paul Reed during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 31, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Paul Reed has really been solid as a backup center recently and his good play continued tonight against the Raptors. Joel Embiid got two fouls in the first quarter and Reed had to sub in early and had a great stint in the first half. He got offensive rebounds and finished through contact against Toronto’s defenders.

Bball Paul ended the night with 11 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists, one of best outings of the year. If Reed continues to play like this, Head Coach Doc Rivers won’t even think about Dewayne Dedmon as an option in the playoffs.