TORONTO — Though Joel Embiid returned Saturday night from a three-game absence in the Sixers’ loss in Toronto, he alone couldn’t solve their persistent turnover problems.
The center did made a difference early, reeling off the Sixers’ first eight points after being listed as questionable with tightness in his back.
Yet the Sixers ultimately lost to the Raptors for the second time in three days, 102-86 (see observations).
They turned the ball over 23 times Saturday, leading to 28 points. The Sixers’ 24 turnovers Thursday led to 32 points in their 114-109 loss to Toronto.
The Sixers have lost a season-high five in a row and have dropped nine of their past 10. Amir Johnson, a former Raptor who had 12 points Saturday, said the Sixers need to cut down on turnovers to end the drought.
“Take care of the ball,” he said. “I think that’s when we’ll start winning. I think it really is just our turnovers. It’s tough when you are in transition or in mid-play, throw lob passes and then we’re scrambling back in transition. We do play at a fast pace, but we just have to take care of the ball. We don’t win anything if we don’t care of the ball.”
“You just have to make it a point of emphasis, or you just have to do it,” said Ben Simmons, who had 10 points, five rebounds and six assists. “You can’t talk about it, you just have to go out there and take care of the ball and focus, and make the right decision.”
While Sixers coach Brett Brown was pleased with his team’s improvement in some areas, he was still disappointed with the turnover problems.
“I thought we did a better job of not blatantly hacking them, fouling them like we did at home,” Brown said. “We did a little bit better job of offensive rebounding. I think the turnovers, especially in the first half, continue to hurt us. I leave mostly thinking that this is a really good team. I think they’ve lost one game at home (12-1), I think they’ve won 12 out of the past 13 games (overall), and we feel every bit of that.”
If turnovers are an aspect that does not seem to change during this process, nor do losses to the Raptors, as the Sixers are 1-18 against Toronto since 2013-14.
Embiid wanted to help end that trend. He said his back did not feel much better Saturday, but he wanted to play. He had 14 points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes.
He appeared to grow frustrated as the game wore on.
“I think because he wants to do so much more and he can’t,” Brown said. “He just hasn’t practiced or recently played, and so it didn’t really surprise me that what I thought was good form at the start of the game, he had his legs underneath him, his conditioning obviously at the start wasn’t challenged but as the game wore on, I think none of us should expect less.
“It’s going to take him some time to feel the game and play basketball again. You don’t just click your heels and jump into an NBA game and do what he did at the start consistently, and he got frustrated. It’s just part of really what makes him quite unique, he wants it and he wants everything now and sometimes you just can’t have that.”