June 10, 2023
Awkward Sixers defense in brutal loss to Raptors

Awkward Sixers defense in brutal loss to Raptors

The Sixers started a two-game set north of the line when they lost 119-109 to the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. Strong offensive performances from Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey weren’t enough as the Sixers’ defensive problems continued. The Raptors accumulated 119 points and shot 54.8 percent from the field.

Here are some immediate takeaways from the loss:

first quarter

  • Every time the Sixers play Toronto, it’s an interesting break in style given how different the rosters are, and it showed early on. Joel Embiid capitalized on his massive height advantage, making his first five shots of the game and amassing 11 points in the first quarter.
  • The Raptors used their length and versatility to exploit the Sixers’ weaknesses in transition. They also got off to a scorching start shooting the ball, going 7 of 12 from downtown in the first quarter. Her first 35-point quarter was her best quarter of the season so far. Too much for PJ Tucker early on, Pascal Siakam scored 5 of 6 for 15 points in the first game, allowing the Raptors to jump out to an eight-point lead.

second quarter

  • Defensively, the Sixers were still an absolute train wreck, especially in the transition phase. With a starting lineup that includes Embiid, Tucker and Tobias Harris, this team isn’t the best in the league when it comes to getting back on defense. However, their defensive issues are more troubling than slow staff. This corner three from Chris Boucher shows what the Sixers have done time and time again this season: Three defenders caught the ball while nobody picked up the shooter:
  • This group with new plays hasn’t played much basketball together, but those are flaws in basic communication and the Sixers need to figure that out soon.
  • The defensive issues felt so blatant in the first half, but the Sixers’ offense was able to keep the result competitive. Maxey eventually came to life with 14 points, a big reason Philly went into halftime with 10 and not 20. Maxey would finish with 31 points, his first 30-plus point game of the season.

Third quarter

  • It felt like the Sixers’ offense had lost rhythm in the first half. Many of their possessions went deep into the shot clock without actually having anything to do with the possession. Some hard punches from Embiid and Maxey but it wasn’t a sustained attack. In the third they got into a much better flow and received easy baskets from Embiid. The big guy would finish with 31 points on 12 of 16 shots in the loss.
  • Still, the Sixers lacked the help of their supporting cast. Harris and Tucker shot 4 of 15 together tonight. Harris’ first field goal didn’t come until the middle of the third quarter.
  • While Doc Rivers has said many times that the backup center situation will be fluid this season, his decisions have been odd. Paul Reed, not yet able to get into some rhythm, replaced a struggling Montrezl Harrell in the second half. While Reed certainly made more sense in terms of the matchup, it’s been hard to see the rationale behind the backup center’s decisions so far.

fourth quarter

  • A final positive from this game would be that De’Anthony Melton seems to be finding a groove as a six after some tough first games. Melton had 12 points off the bench and was pretty much the only life Philly had on the defensive end of the floor. He forced a couple of quick breaks to cut the Raptors’ lead to six, but the Sixers didn’t get any closer.
  • Rivers went with a small ball formation late in the fourth quarter and didn’t put Embiid back in play until about two minutes remained. This felt like an odd move given Embiid’s performance and Tucker’s struggles. Regardless, none of the buttons Rivers pressed tonight worked defensively.

You can hear Dave Early and Jas Kang recap the disappointing loss in our latest podcast below.

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