The Raptors didn’t go down without a fight.
Well, not an actual fight, but the game got heated before the buzzer sounded and the Sixers had fended off the Raptors’ 21-point comeback attempt.
With only 6.5 seconds left and the Sixers' 117-111 win iced (see observations), Ben Simmons and Kyle Lowry had words after a trip to the free throw line. Both were tossed, hand motions seemed to be made to toward the locker room, and buzz quickly circulated about a postgame altercation away from the court (see video).
Both players said that was not the case.
“Off the court? No,” Simmons said. “I just went to the locker room … Nobody was back there."
Lowry said of the incident, “Nothing at all. Things happen.”
Meanwhile, the Sixers locker room had a leak and the team was redirected after the game to a different one a few steps down the hall in the Wells Fargo Center.
Brett Brown believes the incident began when Jakob Poeltl hit Simmons on a box out. Simmons didn’t know what exactly sparked Lowry. He pointed to the possibility of a frustration over a loss, only the Raptors’ 13th of the season. Whatever the reason, Simmons didn’t need an explanation.
“I don't know if they're just trying to test me or see how I am on the court,” Simmons said. “But I don't play around. I'm not going to take s--- from anybody.”
This is not the first time Simmons had been involved in a situation like this. In the Sixers' previous game against the Celtics, he dealt a hard foul to Marcus Morris, who bounced up and shoved him.
"It's been two Philly guys," Simmons pointed out. “Maybe it's a Philly thing. I don't know. They're tough players, I've seen them play. I'm the same way. I'm not going to let you push me around or push me and say whatever you want just because I'm not that type of player.”
Before Lowry and Simmons got into it, T.J. McConnell and DeMar DeRozan also had a chippy exchange. McConnell regained possession off a Raptors turnover and DeRozan pushed him for a foul. As the two guards exchanged words, DeRozan then pushed McConnell with one hand. The refs whistled DeRozan for a personal foul and both with technical fouls (see video).
“It's basketball,” McConnell said. “That kind of stuff happens. I kind of thought the shove wasn't needed, but I know he had no intent behind it. He's a good guy, so it was just the heat of the moment stuff.”
Brown said he could feel the physicality of the game right from the start. The Sixers needed that extra fire to beat the Raptors for the first time since Jan.18 of last year and improve to 20-20. They had been 0-8 so far this season against the top-three teams in the Eastern Conference (Celtics, Raptors, Cavaliers).
“That just shows you that a lot of guys on the team have passion,” Joel Embiid said. “We all want to compete.”