TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.
They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).
As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.
Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.
“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.
“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”
After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.
Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.
“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.
“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”
It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.
The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.
He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.
“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”
Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.
He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.
“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.
“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”
It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.
“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.
“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”