76ers

Sixers suffer 2 losses in Toronto as Josh Richardson exits with injury against Raptors

Sixers suffer 2 losses in Toronto as Josh Richardson exits with injury against Raptors

The Sixers’ modest road winning streak has come to an end.

They fell Wednesday night to the Raptors at Scotiabank Arena, 107-95, snapping a run of two straight away wins and four straight victories overall.

The defeat drops them to 29-17 this season, 5-3 since Joel Embiid has been sidelined because of a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. The Sixers, who next play the Lakers on Saturday night at Wells Fargo Center, haven’t won a regular-season game in Toronto since Nov. 10, 2012. 

Here are observations on the loss: 

Another starter suffers an injury 

With 8:08 to go in the first quarter, Brett Brown called a timeout as Josh Richardson grabbed at his left hamstring. The Sixers’ guard left the game with a left hamstring strain and did not return. 

Richardson came into Wednesday’s game averaging 15.4 points, 3.5 assists and 3.4 rebounds. His perimeter defense, shot creation and pick-and-roll ability have been valuable skills. 

The 26-year-old missed six games in a row from Nov. 29 to Dec. 8 because of right hamstring tightness. 

Richardson’s replacements 

Shake Milton entered when Richardson left, his 13th NBA appearance this season. The second-year player started brightly, sinking a three-pointer from the right wing on his first shot. 

However, Milton only made 2 of his next 9 shots and was outmuscled on a couple of plays. He was passable overall in a tough spot. 

Furkan Korkmaz chipped in 17 points (6 of 13 shooting) off the bench, his fifth straight game in double figures. This was one of Korkmaz’s better defensive efforts, too. 

The Sixers also looked to Tobias Harris to fill the scoring void without Richardson. Harris had a team-high 22 points on 18 shots.

Al Horford faded after hitting a couple of early jumpers and shot 3 for 11.

Turnover problems for Simmons

After his 34-point triple-double Monday night in Brooklyn, Ben Simmons could not meet that same extremely high level again.

Though Simmons was aggressive on the offensive boards and had 10 assists, he also turned it over six times in the first half, which enabled the Raptors to get back into the game after they trailed by 14 points in the first quarter. The turnovers were a combination of the Raptors simply doing a good job of walling Simmons off in the open floor and Simmons either being slow to make a decision when encountering a set defender or choosing the wrong pass. To Simmons’ credit, he’d only averaged 2.1 turnovers over his previous nine games.

The other main reasons the Sixers’ lead evaporated in the second were that they missed a lot of the open three-point looks they’d made in the first period and didn’t get to the foul line enough. They shot 2 of 9 from three and scored 15 second-quarter points, while Harris was the only Sixer besides Simmons to attempt a free throw in the first half. 

A first loss with Thybulle starting 

Matisse Thybulle started for his fifth straight game but left after just three minutes when he picked up his second foul on a Kyle Lowry pump fake, leaving his feet and making the sort of mistake he’s talked about learning to avoid.

Thybulle is usually a peripheral offensive player and has struggled with his shot since returning from his right knee injury — although he did knock down two fourth-quarter threes. Still, he’s shown a consistent ability to start and finish fast breaks, like he did early in the third quarter when he stole the ball and blazed past the lumbering Marc Gasol for a dunk. 

The duo of Thybulle and Simmons seemed to get their hands on every other pass the Raptors tried during a stretch early in the third.

The Sixers are now 7-1 when Thybulle starts.

Pelle’s final day — for now 

Norvel Pelle played in Wednesday’s game, meaning he’s used up every one of the 45 NBA days he’s allotted under his two-way contract. He had one point, four rebounds and two blocks in 12 minutes.  

Though the Sixers opted against converting Pelle to a NBA deal because of their desire to maximize flexibility ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline, he could still get an NBA spot with the Sixers if a roster slot ultimately becomes open.

For now, the energetic, rim-protecting rookie is in an odd limbo and must stay with the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers’ G-League affiliate. 

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Bucks' Twitter account trolls Sixers after blowout win

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@Bucks

Bucks' Twitter account trolls Sixers after blowout win

The Milwaukee Bucks were feeling better than the rest of the NBA and most definitely better than the Sixers after a 119-98 win Saturday night in Milwaukee. 

The team’s Twitter account captured that feeling of superiority with a shot at the Sixers.

Is there anything the Sixers can say in response? Reminding the Bucks that they’ve won over 50 games in each of the last two seasons or have two young All-Stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons probably wouldn’t seem very persuasive after losing by 21 points to a team on pace for more than 70 wins.

This is a case where the Sixers would likely do well to stay silent and accept the L.

They can praise Sam Hinkie's vision or craft arguments against Process skeptics on another night. 

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Ben Simmons leaves with injury in Sixers' nightmarish loss to Bucks

Ben Simmons leaves with injury in Sixers' nightmarish loss to Bucks

The Sixers’ second game after the All-Star break could have gone worse, but not by much.

They were blown out Saturday night in Milwaukee by the NBA-best Bucks, 119-98, and Ben Simmons left the game in the first quarter because of injury.

The loss drops the Sixers to 35-22, 9-20 on the road. Up next are the Hawks on Monday night (7 p.m./NBCSP).

Simmons irritates injury 

Simmons, who’d missed the Sixers’ game Thursday vs. the Nets with lower back soreness, exited after playing 4:44 and irritating the injury. 

He paused and bent down after drawing a foul on Brook Lopez, then made 1 of 2 free throws. Matisse Thybulle then took a foul on Khris Middleton to ensure Simmons could check out and go back to the locker room.

Heading into Saturday’s contest, Simmons had played 213 of a possible 230 regular-season games over the past three seasons. The 23-year-old All-Star leads the NBA in steals and is quite obviously an integral piece for the Sixers.

Other injury scares 

Tobias Harris grabbed at his right knee and limped back up the floor following a missed layup attempt in the second quarter.

Though Harris stayed in the game, it was an alarming sight, especially in the context of Simmons’ injury and Harris’ immediate reaction without any contact. He didn’t seem to be moving as well as usual after the incident.

At the end of the half, Embiid missed a tip-in off an Alec Burks layup, then appeared to grimace and hold his lower back. He didn’t miss any action. 

The Sixers entered the game with no players on the injury report, but, by the end of the first half, their overall team health was a matter of concern. 

The backup plan 

Shake Milton (17 points on 5 of 9 shooting) slid into the point guard spot when Simmons exited, sharing a backcourt with Josh Richardson early in the second quarter. The Sixers then inserted Burks in place of starter Glenn Robinson III. That lineup — with Harris and Embiid in the frontcourt — was the same one that had won the Sixers Thursday’s game in overtime. 

Again, Simmons’ injury had an impact on the team’s rotations, so it wouldn’t make sense to come to any grand conclusions. That said, the exclusion of Raul Neto until the game was out of hand is notable. Neto had started in Simmons' place Thursday. 

The inclination to try the Sixers’ three most capable pick-and-roll guards in the same lineup also suggests a desire to maximize that skill set, which is not at all surprising.

Throughout the entire season, the Sixers have been looking for players who can handle the ball, create their own shots and run a pick-and-roll. They’re hoping that Burks, who impressed with 19 points Thursday, can help in an area where they’ve been consistently lacking. Burks did not play well Saturday, shooting 3 of 13. On one third-quarter sequence, he quickly undid the good fortune of a banked-in three by missing a free throw and fouling Middleton on the ensuing possession. 

Mike Scott, a DNP vs. Brooklyn, appeared in the second half with the Sixers down double digits. 

Shooting woes 

Neither Embiid nor the Sixers started the game well. Embiid was scoreless in the first quarter and the Sixers shot 8 of 25 as a team from the field (1 of 9 from three-point range).

He was aggressive in the second quarter, scoring 12 points, getting to the foul line seven times and temporarily giving the Sixers a form of reliable half-court offense. The Sixers also did well to defend the Bucks without fouling in the first half, holding a big free throw attempt disparity (14-2) and staying close despite their continued outside shooting struggles.

That quarter was the only real positive of the night for Embiid or the Sixers. Embiid picked up his third and fourth fouls early in the third quarter, and the Sixers’ deficit grew with him on the bench. As a comeback win without Simmons looked more and more unlikely, the defensive effort deteriorated. 

Embiid hit 5 of 18 field goals and had 11 rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. He’s now made 11 of his last 44 shots in Milwaukee. 

The Sixers shot a season-worst 35 percent from the field. Al Horford was just 1 for 7. 

The reigning MVP dominates 

Embiid and Horford split defensive duties on Giannis Antetokounmpo. The reigning MVP again made it very clear that his 8-of-27 Christmas shooting effort against the Sixers was an anomaly with 31 points, 17 rebounds and eight assists in 29 minutes. 

Thursday night, Embiid had said, “The All-Star Game is just proving that I’m here, I belong, and being the best player in the world.”

Antetokounmpo played like the best player in the world Saturday. 

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