Sixers earn first win of the Nick Nurse era, take down Raptors 114-107

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Philadelphia 76ers coach Nick Nurse watches during the first half of the team’s NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

The Philadelphia 76ers came into Saturday night’s contest against the Toronto Raptors looking to get their first win of the season. Saturday was also the return of former head coach Nick Nurse across the border to his old squad. The Sixers were coming off a loss to the Milwaukee Bucks Thursday night, while the Raptors came off an overtime loss to the Chicago Bulls Friday.

Sloppy turnovers and bad defense led to the Sixers putting themselves in an early hole. The Raptors started the night 10 for 16 from three-point range, and a lot of those shots were wide-open. There were some bad rotations, which could be due to some miscommunication within their new defense. Nonetheless, the 76ers didn’t help themselves early on, giving a normally poor shooting team so many open looks.

The second half saw the Sixers enforce their will and take the game over from Toronto. An early run put Philadelphia ahead for good. In the third quarter, they outscored the Raptors by 15 due to an onslaught of scoring from Tyrese Maxey. In the end, the Sixers defeated the Raptors 114-107, including a stress-free fourth quarter. Take a look at some observations from tonight:

Catching His Wind

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid looks on during the NBA basketball team’s practice on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The reigning MVP looked to be in a much better rhythm offensively on Saturday night. His mid-range jumper looked much better, nailing almost everything he shot. He even hit a couple of three-pointers, opening up his pump and drive to the rim.

Although Embiid ended the night with 34 points, 9 rebounds, and 8 assists, he still seemed to have moments early on where the effort wasn’t there. He played in just one preseason game, and the new minutes distribution may take some getting used to.

It may take a few weeks for Joel Embiid to really build up his rim. Nurse has him playing the entire first and third quarters and resting the first six minutes of the second and fourth. The Sixers’ head coach also mentioned during training camp that he wanted Embiid to play more games and minutes and not less.

To the Max(ey)

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey waves to students as he boards a bus after the NBA basketball team’s practice on the campus of Colorado State University on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Tyrese Maxey has officially started his All-Star campaign just two games into the regular season. With the uncertainty around James Harden, the Sixers’ young star has elevated his game yet again. Every year he has gotten better at a different aspect of his game, and the work he put in the summer is showing.

Maxey ended the night with 34 points, seven assists, and six rebounds, showing his improvement and playmaking as the Sixers’ starting point guard. Of course, the young guard is going to have tough nights in the future, but he has shown he is ready to take the next step. His play early on this season should give Daryl Morey more patience dealing with Harden and waiting for the right return.

Garbage into Gold

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Kelly Oubre Jr. asses between Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Bobby Portis during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Paying homage to the great Marc Zumoff, the Sixers may have found a key player within the rotation in Kelly Oubre Jr. He signed at the end of September for the veteran’s minimum, so many didn’t know what to think.

Oubre averaged 20 ppg for the Hornets last year and, so far, has shown he still has that ability to score off the bench. Scoring 18 points tonight while playing within the system, Oubre looks to be a much-needed scorer off the bench to pair with the starters in crunch time.

We will see some bad Oubre throughout the season, but right now, he’s doing everything he has been asked of and more. Can’t beat this type of production from a guy signed a few days before camp.

The Sixers return home for their home opener Sunday night at the Wells Fargo Center at 7:30 PM. One should wonder if James Harden will be suiting up after missing the first two games of the season. We shall find out.