Sixers-Raptors 5 things: Another road challenge while shorthanded

Sixers-Raptors 5 things: Another road challenge while shorthanded

The Sixers (28-48) face the Toronto Raptors (46-30) at Air Canada Centre (6 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Dust yourself off
The Sixers walked -- or limped -- right into a buzzsaw their last time on the court.

Already shorthanded, the Sixers were dominated by the hungry Cleveland Cavaliers in a 122-105 loss Friday night. They allowed the Cavs to shoot 52.6 percent from the field, 44.8 percent from three-point range, grab 53 rebounds and score 54 points in the paint.

"I think they played at a championship level," Brett Brown said. "They took their frustrations out on us."

2. The new guys
The Sixers now get to square off against another team attempting to round into postseason form in the Raptors.

Even with point guard Kyle Lowry sidelined after undergoing wrist surgery, the Raptors have managed to maintain their solid play. They are 13-6 since Lowry went down near the end of February.

That has a lot to do with the play of newcomers Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, who were acquired at the trade deadline.

Since coming over from Orlando, Ibaka has had the bigger impact numbers-wise. He's averaged 14.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks with the Raptors.

Tucker has put up 5.9 points and 5.5 rebounds since coming aboard, but his value has been primarily as a lockdown defender.

3. Walk the line
A big difference maker in the season series between the Sixers and Raptors has been the free-throw line.

The Raptors, who rank top 10 in the NBA in free throws attempted, free throws made and free-throw percentage, owned the charity stripe in the first two clashes. Toronto shot 25 of 31 from the line in the first matchup and 31 of 36 in the second.

On the other side, the Sixers were 28 for 38 combined at the line in the two games, both losses.

In the third matchup -- a 94-89 Sixers' win on Jan. 18 -- they were 24 of 32 at the stripe compared to 15 of 23 for the Raptors.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee), Sergio Rodriguez (hamstring), Jahlil Okafor (knee), Joel Embiid (knee), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Lowry (wrist) is out for the Raptors.

5. This and that
• The Sixers snapped a 14-game losing skid to the Raptors with that Jan. 18 win.

• DeMar DeRozan has been right on his season scoring average with 27.6 points a night in the 19 games since Lowry went down. However, he has also reached the 40-point mark four times during that span, including in a 111-100 win over the Indiana Pacers on Friday.

• Canada native Nik Stauskas has struggled against the Raptors in 2016-17 with just 4.3 points per matchup, his second-lowest mark against any team this season.

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday. 

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers. 

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”

Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

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Best of NBA: Giannis Antetokounmpo dominates as Bucks down Celtics

BOSTON -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 16 of his 37 points in the fourth quarter, and the Milwaukee Bucks opened their season with a 108-100 victory over Boston on Wednesday night to spoil the homecoming of a Celtics team coming off a late and emotional season opener.

One night after a gruesome broken ankle just six minutes into the season cost Boston top free agent Gordon Hayward -- perhaps for the entire season -- the Celtics fell to 0-2 by giving up an 11-1 run that left Milwaukee with a 97-90 lead and under three minutes to play.

Antetokounmpo added 13 rebounds, Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon scored 19 points and Khris Middleton had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bucks. Matthew Dellavedova scored 15 points, hitting a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left after the Celtics cut the lead to two points.

Kyrie Irving scored 17 points on 7-for-25 shooting in his Boston debut, and Jaylen Brown had 18 for the Celtics.

It was a subdued home opener for the Celtics, who underwent a near-complete overhaul over the summer even after earning the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Although Irving and No. 3 draft pick Jayson Tatum appeared in a Celtics home uniform for the first time, Hayward was left to wish them well in a pregame video from his hospital bed (see full recap).

Revamped Pacers score 140 in win
INDIANAPOLIS -- Victor Oladipo scored 22 points in his Indiana debut, Darren Collison added 21 points and 11 assists in his return to Indianapolis, and the Pacers held off the Brooklyn Nets 140-131 on Wednesday night in their season opener.

Eight players scored in double figures as the Pacers, in their first game since trading All-Star Paul George, produced their highest point total since a 144-point game against Denver on Nov. 9, 2010. Myles Turner had 21 points and 14 rebounds, and Thaddeus Young added 17 points and 11 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell scored 30 points in his Nets debut but backcourt mate Jeremy Lin limped to the locker room with an injury midway through the fourth quarter. Trevor Booker finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, but it wasn't enough to prevent the Nets from losing a franchise-record fifth consecutive season opener.

Despite having chances to take control, neither could.

Brooklyn led 30-29 after one quarter, the Pacers took a 65-63 halftime lead and then used a 10-0 third-quarter run to build a 75-65 lead. Brooklyn never led again.

But the Nets charged back in the final minutes, trimming a 10-point deficit to 130-126 before the Pacers finally managed to close it out (see full recap).

Grizzlies cruise past Pelicans in opener
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mike Conley scored 27 points, rookie Dillon Brooks added 19 and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 103-91 in their season opener on Wednesday night.

Marc Gasol had 14 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 3:05 left. Memphis won its opener for the second straight year, a first in franchise history.

Anthony Davis had 33 points and 18 rebounds and DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 boards for New Orleans, but the frontcourt pair got little help. The Pelicans shot 38 percent, including 7 of 25 from 3-point range.

Memphis, which carried a 79-70 lead into the fourth, stretched the margin to 13 in the early stages of the final period.

Davis and Cousins helped the Pelicans build an early lead, but Memphis countered with nine straight points to open the second quarter and the game settled into a close one. The Grizzlies held a 54-52 lead at halftime.

Memphis made it 77-65 in the latter stages of the third and cruised from there (see full recap).