Sixers down Raptors after a historic performance by Embiid, Maxey, and Harris

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Sixers Joel embiid
Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid, left, tries to get by Toronto Raptors’ Dennis Schroder, center, and Jakob Poeltl during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In their third meeting of the season (PHI won the previous two), the Philadelphia 76ers took down the Toronto Raptors by a score of 121-111. The visiting Raptors jumped to an early 37-28 lead through a quarter of play. The Sixers outscored Toronto 33-21 in the second quarter and led 61-58 at halftime to overcome a slow start from current MVP-favorite Joel Embiid. Despite Toronto’s lead reaching 15 points at one point, the Sixers managed to come back before the break, largely thanks to Tobias Harris‘ efficient scoring.

The Sixers outscored Toronto 32-31 in the third quarter and entered the fourth with a 93-89 advantage. The Sixers closed with a 28-22 fourth quarter following significant second-half scoring from Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. The Nick Nurse-led Sixers ascended to 20-8 on the season, as Darko Rajakovic‘s Raptors dropped to 11-17. The reigning MVP Joel Embiid (31 points), Tyrese Maxey (33 points), and Tobias Harris (33 points) became the first trio of Sixers to each score 30+ points in the same game since 1961 when Hal Greer, Dolph Schayes, and Dick Barnett accomplished the feat.

Philly shot 53 percent (44/83) from the field compared to Toronto, who shot 45 percent (39/87). The Sixers converted on 45 percent of their threes (14/31), while the Raptors shot 27 percent from three (9/33). However, Toronto held the free throw advantage; the visitors shot 24-of-28 while the Sixers shot 19-of-21 from the line. Toronto also outrebounded the Sixers 46-38, including 11-3 on the offensive glass. The Raptors’ offensive rebounding led to a 19-7 Toronto edge in second-chance points.

Aggressive Tobias resurfaced

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris, right, tries to get a shot past Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Harris carried the offensive load in the first half with 24 points, as the bucket-getter scored 11 points in the first quarter and 13 points in the second. Noticeably, the Sixers wing finished strong at the rim and confidently attempted threes.

In 37 minutes, Harris recorded a season-high 33 points (12/23 FG, 4/4 FT, 5/9 3P), along with eight rebounds and seven assists. The last game Tobias shot nine or more threes was November 23rd, 2022, against Charlotte, and the last time he made five or more threes was December 19th, 2022, against Toronto.

Harris’ All-Star level play showed the front office how dangerous this team could be with a proficient third star. While Friday night’s efficiency is certainly unsustainable, the team would benefit greatly if Tobias plays with the same aggressiveness and decisiveness moving forward.

Sixers missed Melton, Batum, Beverley

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) shoots over the defense of Philadelphia 76ers forward Nicolas Batum (40) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The Sixers’ bench depth was tested as De’Anthony Melton (thigh contusion), Patrick Beverley (heel soreness), and Nicolas Batum (hamstring strain) were all unavailable. Robert Covington returned from an illness and slotted back into the rotation for 24 minutes. Nick Nurse turned to Danuel House for about 22 minutes, and Furkan Korkmaz was given a brief opportunity that totaled around seven minutes. Mo Bamba was also out with an illness.

Covington ended the night scoreless (0/1 FG, 0/1 3P) but tallied three rebounds, a pair of assists, one steal, and one block. In extended playing time, House contributed with three points (1/1 FG, 1/2 FT), one rebound, and one assist. Korkmaz added two points (1/1 FG) and one rebound. With limited production from this trio of reserves, the on-court presence of Melton, Batum, and Beverley will be greatly missed until their eventual returns.

Embiid and Maxey catch fire in second half

Philadelphia 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey, left, and Joel Embiid react after a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Embiid experienced a quiet first half, where he turned his ankle midway through the first quarter. The tweak seemed to bother the big man for the remainder of the game and is worth monitoring heading into Christmas. Maxey had a similar untimely, underwhelming first half as the big man.

The unstoppable Embiid overcame the injury for a monster third quarter–at one point in the third, the All-NBA center recorded 17 consecutive Sixer points. Shortly following Embiid’s heat check, All-Star starter-hopeful Tyrese Maxey surged for 17 points of his own in just the fourth quarter.

In 40 minutes of action, Maxey recorded 33 points (13/22 FG, 3/3 FT, 4/10 3P), four rebounds, and 10 assists, while Embiid’s night concluded with 31 points (11/21 FG, 7/8 FT, 2/2 3P), 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals, and four blocks in 34 minutes. Embiid extended his streak of consecutive games with at least 30 points and 10 rebounds to 13 games, the longest streak since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recorded 16 straight in 1972.

Raptors Notes

Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam (43) goes up for a shot against Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

In front of a potential suitor in Philly on Friday night, O.G. Anunoby was outdueled by Tobias Harris, which should send a relatively clear message to the Sixers and their front office. Amid recent speculation and reporting of Philly’s interest in Anunoby, the Sixers would be wise to avoid unloading their assets for the right to overpay a non-All-Star in free agency this summer. Anunoby ended the night with 12 points (4/9 FG, 4/4 FT, 0/4 3P), four rebounds, and five assists in about 34 minutes.

Toronto was led by Pascal Siakam Friday night. Siakam played 36 minutes and scored 31 points (10/16 FG, 11/12 FT, 0/4 3P), 5 rebounds, and 5 assists, while ascending star Scottie Barnes dropped in 12 points (3/11 FG, 4/4 FT, 2/7 3P), 7 rebounds, 8 assists, one steal, and four blocks in 34 minutes. Additionally, sniper Gary Trent Jr. recorded 17 points (6/11 FG, 5/8 3P), 4 rebounds, one assist, and one steal in 25 minutes. Furthermore, center Jakob Poeltl played 28 minutes and tallied 19 points (9/15 FG, 1/2 FT), 8 rebounds, and two assists.

The Sixers will look for their third straight win in their next game, which falls on Christmas against Jimmy Butler and the Heat. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 PM EST in Miami, and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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