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.

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

Source: Sixers will acquire Mike Muscala, send away Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Justin Anderson in 3-team trade

The Sixers were involved in a trade with Carmelo Anthony.

Exhale, Sixers fans, Anthony is not coming here. Instead, Anthony is being shipped to the Hawks — who will likely waive the veteran forward — with a 2022 protected first-round pick for point guard Dennis Schroder, according to a report Thursday by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Sixers in turn will send Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to the Thunder and Justin Anderson to the Hawks to acquire Atlanta’s Mike Muscala, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

Yahoo! Sports' Shams Charania first reported the Sixers' side of the deal.

The move makes sense for the Sixers on a couple fronts. After missing out on Serbian forward Nemanja Bjelica, who reportedly agreed to a deal with the team and then backed out, Brett Brown gets a player with a similar skill set in Muscala. The former Bucknell star has great size (6-foot-11, 240 pounds) and the ability to shoot (37.8 percent from three for his career).

It also makes sense from a roster standpoint. The team had a bit of a logjam on the wing and had 16 players for 15 roster spots. By losing two players and getting only one back, the Sixers are now at 15 players under contract. That also includes Jerryd Bayless, who will likely be bought out or stretched, but does not include 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden or 2018 second-round pick Shake Milton.

Muscala had a career year for the lowly Hawks. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.3 rebounds in 20 minutes a game — all career marks. He also hit 37.1 percent of his threes on 3.2 attempts. A second-round pick by the Mavericks in 2013, Muscala has spent all five of his NBA seasons in Atlanta.

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Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Sixers fans need to relax about team's offseason

Here’s a brief message that some Sixers fans can use right now: relax.

Remember that you have a team with two budding superstars that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals just last season and should only be headed upward from here.

Sure, there’s going to be some level of disappointment when Brett Brown proclaimed the Sixers were going “star hunting” this summer only to come up empty on the free-agent market outside of re-signing their own players.

But, more than anything, how things transpired for the Sixers over the past few weeks should let you know that much more goes into landing a free agent than simply basketball.

Look at the first major domino to fall in free agency, Paul George. The five-time All-Star didn’t hesitate to make his decision and announced he was rejoining the Oklahoma City Thunder at a Russell Westbrook party shortly after midnight on July 1.

Despite the Sixers being in the mix for George, the Thunder always had the upper hand. The Thunder had George in the fold for a full year after acquiring him from Indiana last summer and used every day to convince him OKC was the right place to move forward.

“They honestly check the boxes where I needed those boxes to be checked from what a player wants and needs out of a front office, out of a medical group, out of teammates, out of coaching staff,” George said during exit interviews. “I mean, honestly, they can't say it anymore [than] that. They checked the boxes on what needs to be checked.”

Even with George on the market, the Sixers always had their top focus on the biggest available fish in the game: LeBron James. They even secured a meeting with James’ camp, albeit only with agent Rich Paul and not the three-time champion himself. 

Still, the Sixers, with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid leading the way, were serious contenders for James as Paul confirmed.

"The teams that he looked at, he looked at for guys like Ben Simmons,” Paul, who is also Simmons’ agent, said on NBA TV during a summer league game. “There's a reason why he looked at Philadelphia, but ultimately he chose the Lakers.”

And what ultimately made James join the Lakers, no matter what his representatives say to the contrary, had little to do with basketball. James has turned himself into an entertainment mogul, so who better to learn from than Magic Johnson? 

After all, King James reportedly already had dinner in Los Angeles last week with Al Pacino and Leonardo DiCaprio

We all love Philadelphia, but those types of Hollywood power brokers aren’t exactly making reservations for restaurants on Broad Street.

So the Sixers swung and missed on George for familiarity and James for off-court opportunities. 

Perhaps you can swallow missing out on two of the game’s best players, but now role players are spurning the franchise too? That’s enough to push a Sixers fan over the edge … until you dig a little bit deeper.

Nemanja Bjelica had his qualifying offer with the Minnesota Timberwolves rescinded and immediately jumped to the best situation for him when he reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the Sixers.

However, Bjelica informed the team he was backing out of the deal and returning to Europe. That was until fellow Serbian and Kings general manager, Vlade Divac, came calling. Now the two sides are apparently deep in discussion on a multi-year contract.

Once you push through the initial wave of confusion, you find out that Bjelica simply didn’t want to move his family to Philadelphia for a year and be back on the hunt next summer. He was seeking what most of us do in a new job, which is stability. 

While that may seem a bit unreasonable for an NBA reserve big man, you can’t blame a guy for trying. And now it appears he may find some of what he desired in Sacramento.

Back here in Philadelphia, the Sixers are surely second-guessing what happened to their star hunt this offseason. While it came up empty-handed, the Sixers — and their fans — have to understand that so much more factors into securing a free agent than what actually takes place on the court and is not a red flag on the franchise.

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