Larry Millson

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors


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.”

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss

Sixers-Raptors observations: Not much life without Joel Embiid in blowout loss


TORONTO — The Air Canada Centre has become a tough place for the Sixers.

Nothing has changed with a new season.

The Raptors defeated the Sixers, 128-94, Saturday night for their 16th win in the past 17 games against the Sixers, including 10 in a row at the Air Canada Centre.

The Sixers have problems beating the Raptors at home as well as away, which pretty well takes care of all the possibilities.

Say this for the Sixers, after falling behind by 17 points during the first quarter, they had the lead down to eight in the second quarter on a pair of free throws by former Raptor Jerryd Bayless. It was 62-49 for Toronto at the half.

Then there was the second half.

The Raptors raced out to a 72-51 lead early in the third quarter, with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points. Kyle Lowry finished the scoring in the third quarter with a three-pointer to increase Toronto’s lead to 102-71.

• Amir Johnson got the start at center with Joel Embiid missing the second half of a back-to-back to rest his left knee. Johnson knows his way around the Air Canada Centre, having played for the Raptors for six seasons before going to the Boston Celtics for the past two seasons. He received a nice cheer during the pregame introductions and then scored the game’s first basket on a dunk.

• Jahlil Okafor took over at center 5:27 into the first quarter and quickly scored to tie the game at 13, but he was out of the game after playing 2:49 after picking up three quick fouls.

• Ben Simmons had his third consecutive double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds. He also had eight assists. He already had accomplished something never done before in franchise history entering the game against the Raptors. The rookie forward recorded double-doubles in his first two career NBA games against the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. He is the 11th player in NBA history to do so.

• Toronto guard DeMar DeRozan was listed as questionable for Saturday’s game because of flu symptoms. No such luck for the Sixers, he was in the starting lineup and looked quite well as he pumped in 15 points in the first quarter on 4 for 4 shooting from the field and a telling seven free throws in eight attempts. He finished with a game-high 30 points.

• As if the discrepancy in free throws has not been enough of a problem in the early going for the Sixers, Markelle Fultz missed three of his first four free-throw attempts against the Raptors. Toronto was 24 for 28 from the line in the first half and the Sixers were 12 for 18. Toronto made 31 of 37 foul shots on the game and the Sixers made 22 of 36. 

• Toronto reserve Lucas Nogueira scored on a breakaway dunk during the third quarter, which may redefine garbage time.

• For those who thought the 17 turnovers committed by the Sixers in each of their first two games were bad, what do you think of 20 turnovers Saturday night?

• Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was restricted to 15 minutes (five points, four rebounds) because of a sprained left ankle. He had a double-double in the team’s opening game win over the Chicago Bulls.

Flyers crumble in nightmare 3rd period, lose badly to Maple Leafs

Flyers crumble in nightmare 3rd period, lose badly to Maple Leafs


TORONTO — It could have turned out so much better for the Flyers but the outcome could not have been much worse.

They took a 3-2 lead into the third period Friday, then allowed four answered goals and the Toronto Maple Leafs drubbed them, 6-3 (see Instant Replay).

That’s the problem. The NHL insists that the teams play a third period.

And when it was over, the Flyers were left biting off terse sentences.

"We turned a pretty good two-period effort into a poor outcome,” Flyers coach Dave Hakstol said. “We’ve got to finish and we didn’t. We had two pretty solid road periods, we didn’t finish, bottom line.”

Wayne Simmonds scored twice and Travis Konecny added the other for the Flyers, who are 6-7-2 and have allowed 57 goals. They know they must be better than that.

“We talk about it a lot,” Simmonds said. “We have to be better, plain and simple. We’re up 3-2 and we gave up four unanswered goals.”

Steve Mason, starting his second straight game in the Flyers' goal, did not face a bunch of shots — 23 in all — but in that third period he was not getting much help. This was a team effort defensively. Plenty of blame to go around.

“We didn’t give Mase a whole lot of easy saves,” Hakstol said. “Especially when you look at the third period with some second and third opportunities. To be blunt and honest, we gave up four goals in the third period, so everybody has to be a little bit better.”

Mason dropped to 2-5-2 with a 3.56 goals-against average and .874 save percentage.

“The last [goal] I wasn’t happy with,” Mason said. “Realistically, everything is stoppable. The third period wasn’t good. We had an opportunity to win a hockey game and we let it get away.”

“We’ve got to finish, it’s 60 minutes,” Hakstol said. “Now we’ve got to turn the page really quick where we’ve got a back-to-back, back at home (against the Minnesota Wild), clear the mind and make sure that we come back very determined [Saturday] night and play the full 60 minutes.”

There had been a feeling around the team that it had cleaned up its defensive play. In the third period, however, the evidence did not support that theory.

“If you look at tonight, the consistency of it has to get better,” Hakstol said. “We gave up a little bit of easy ice on the middle of the rink on the third goal. Plus, we got beat down on our own net. The fourth one is a turnover at the far blue line that comes back. We’ve got to be tougher, stronger, harder in those areas.”

Hakstol said he has seen improvement defensively.

“We’ve been pretty good,” he said. “We got sloppy taking care of the puck two games ago. It wasn’t coverage issues, it was taking care of the puck. We weren’t very good around our blue paint tonight.”

Simmonds scored a shorthanded goal and a power-play goal.

Konecny had the even-strength goal 4:25 into the first period of a wild start to the game that saw the Flyers take a 2-1 lead before some people in the Air Canada Centre were in their seats.

The Flyers still led after two periods and had a chance to clamp down on a victory.

“We talked about it in the room,” Konecny said. “That’s one of the things we wanted to key in on. I think we kind of died there for a couple of minutes and, when that happens, the other team capitalizes on your mistakes. We have to tighten that up. We played a good 40 minutes, but you can’t win a game in the NHL in 40 minutes.”

It happened quickly.

Toronto tied the score when Martin Marincin wired a shot from the point for his first goal of the season. Zach Hyman gave Toronto the lead with his first goal of the season when the Flyers failed to get the puck out of their zone and gave up too many chances.

Leo Komarov added the indignity of a shorthanded goal with his first of the season — a recurring theme — and Mitch Marner finished off what turned into a nice night for the Maple Leafs with his fifth of the season in a third period that helped them forget a 7-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Flyers have lost three games in a row, two of them in regulation. They have to get rid of Friday’s loss in hurry.