76ers

Raptors 119, Sixers 107: Sixers' lack of depth exposed vs. Raptors

Raptors 119, Sixers 107: Sixers' lack of depth exposed vs. Raptors

BOX SCORE

The Sixers made a comeback effort, but it was too little, too late.

The team's lack of depth was exposed in a 119-107 loss to the Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center Tuesday.

The Sixers cut into Toronto's lead to start the second half and got it to as low as seven in the fourth, but the Raptors turned it on when they had to.

The loss drops the Sixers to 21-6 at home and 34-20 overall.

Here are observations from the game.

• If there were ever a game that proved the Sixers desperately need to make a move, it’s this one. 

With JJ Redick a last-minute scratch because of nausea and Wilson Chandler out until after the All-Star break with a quad strain, Landry Shamet and Mike Muscala started. The Raptors proceeded to hang 40 points in the first quarter, followed by 32 in the second.

The Sixers finished last season third in the NBA in defensive rating. They’re currently 10th while featuring an elite rim protector, an elite wing defender and another player that’s flashed elite potential on the perimeter.

While the Sixers may target three-and-D type players at the deadline, the second part of that description is much more important. With all the talk of offensive fit and the like, defense continues to be what’s holding back the Sixers from being considered among the East’s elite — and personnel appears to be the biggest issue.

• Kawhi Leonard is really freaking good.

It seemed like he was everywhere Tuesday night. When you look at his stat line, nothing special stands out (23 points, six rebounds, three steals), but he was able to get in the paint at will, fought for every loose ball and continued to suffocate Ben Simmons — though this was by far the best game Simmons has had against Leonard.

His presence opened things up for Kyle Lowry (20 points) and Serge Ibaka (20 points).

• After depth and defense, the Sixers' next biggest issue has to be turnovers. They turned it over 18 times. The Raptors turned that into 30 points. The biggest culprits were Simmons (six), T.J. McConnell (four) and Joel Embiid (four).

• If you’re looking for a bright spot for the Sixers, Embiid continued his dominant ways. He was too much for Ibaka and Greg Monroe inside and hit 3 of 6 threes. He poured in 37 points (10 of 18) and 13 rebounds for his league-leading 44th double-double.

If it wasn't for Embiid, this game would've never gotten close. Brett Brown even sensed that and played Embiid a season-high 41 minutes, barely resting him in the second half. That's after he played the big man 39 minutes against Sacramento Saturday. 

• It was a pretty pedestrian game from Jimmy Butler offensively. Brown has said on numerous occasions and reiterated again before the game that he'd like to see Butler be more aggressive on that end of the floor. His fourth quarter against the Kings looked like an encouraging sign and he appeared aggressive early in the first few minutes of this one. Ultimately, he finished with just 16 points on 4 of 11 from the field.

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Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Over the last week, you’ve likely seen, read about, participated in or experienced in some way protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

You might also have noticed a basketball hoop rolling around Philadelphia. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Farzetta recently talked with Philadelphia native Stephania Ergemlidze, who’s responsible for the traveling games of 1-on-1.

“Basketball is the one way I know how to spread love and I know how to bring people together,” Ergemlidze told Farzetta, “so it was a no-brainer.”

Ergemlidze said that she was cognizant of not wanting to detract or warp the messages of protestors. Philadelphians gathered on Saturday for the seventh straight day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was something I was very, very nervous about,” she said. “What way can I do it where I’m not actually distracting from the protests? My goal was not to distract from the protests. My goal is to amplify it and show the positive sides of things, because right now I feel like they’re sharing a lot of negatives, like rioting and looting, but there’s also a lot of peaceful protesting going on.”

You can watch Ergemlidze’s interview with Farzetta in the video above. 

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Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

Would a neutral site help or hurt the mercurial Sixers?

The night the NBA season was suspended back on March 11, we were all wondering about the possibility of the league playing games without fans.

The last player the Sixers media got to speak with was Glenn Robinson III. As he sat at the podium six feet away from us, he pondered what it might be like to play a game with no fans and what might be done to account for a quiet gym.

"I think how they play music when we're on defense, and offense they kind of play the instrumental in the background — maybe they turn that up a little bit," Robinson said. "Maybe they got the fake fans that cheer in the background, so maybe we can do that. That'd be interesting for us to do, is act like there's more fans here."

A reporter mentioned that fake fan noise wasn't a bad idea.

"I'll take that credit," Robinson joked.

Almost three months later, not only do empty stands appear to be a reality, but games at a neutral site in Walt Disney World are part of the return-to-play format approved by players and owners.

While it’s unknown whether the NBA heard Robinson’s idea, that is reportedly a notion the league is considering, with fake crowd noise provided by the folks at NBA 2K.

For the Sixers, the situation will be especially difficult to grasp. They were on pace to have the widest gap between their home and road record in NBA history. 

The happiest place on Earth for the Sixers was the Wells Fargo Center, where they boasted a preposterous 29-2 record. On the road, they had as many wins as the rudderless Knicks with an abysmal 10-24 mark. To make matters worse, the Sixers finished 0-4 in the state of Florida this season with two losses each in Miami and Orlando.

It's hard to know if having no true home-court advantage will hurt the Sixers or their opponents more.

The stakes will be much higher than the previous four games in the Sunshine State, or any game before the season was suspended, for that matter. The Sixers will have two or three “preseason” games and just eight regular-season games — which they absolutely need — before the playoffs begin.

Brett Brown has always referred to the last third of the season as a sprint. This time line is even more accelerated. Perhaps that’ll force his players to have a heightened focus and put their road woes behind them.

“Of course, [playing with no fans is] going to have some level of an impact,” Brown said to reporters on May 15. “I do feel just the mere fact that we'll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.”

For those of us at home, the lack of crowd noise, however unfortunate, could add an interesting dynamic. If Joel Embiid is telling an opposing center that they can’t bleeping guard him, we may hear it. When Tobias Harris gets hacked on his way to the lane with no whistle, we may hear the earful he gives the official. When Ben Simmons throws down a rim-rocking dunk, we may hear him bellowing.

It’s uncharted territory for every person involved.

“I think it will be almost comical,” Brown said, “like the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. I mean, think about that, so much of it really is drowned in 20,000 people — there won't be at all. And so how it will play out, I don't know. None of us have ever done this.”

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