Immediate Reaction: Raptors Crush Sixers
The Sixers were setup for a night like this.
Already short on talent, the Sixers were without Nerlens Noel, Robert Covington, and Richaun Holmes, on top of the usual suspects in dress clothes: Joel Embiid, Tony Wroten, Kendall Marshall, and Carl Landry.
There’s a very strong argument to be made that if a starting five from the injured players competed against the actual starting five — T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, JaKarr Sampson, Jerami Grant, and Jahlil Okafor — that the injured group would win. In fact, if all were healthy, there might not be a member on the Sixers current starting unit that would start.
So while the Raptors came in having lost three in a row and were on the tail end of a back-to-back, a loss wasn’t necessarily surprising. If anything, the fact that the Sixers were able to keep the game close at half time, down only 57-63, was the most surprising part. Still, watching the wheels fall off third quarter after third quarter is frustrating to watch, regardless of the available talent Sixers head coach Brett Brown has at his disposal.
A couple of quick observations:
* Third quarters, man. The Raptors started the third quarter on an 11-0 run. Add in a three by Kyle Lowry at the first half buzzer, and that 14-0 run turned a three-point game into a blowout, and the game was over in the blink of an eye.
* The Sixers have been outscored in the third quarter of every game this season with the exception of the Milwaukee game, where they outscored the Bucks 22-21. Overall, the Sixers have been outscored 178-225 in the third quarter of games this year.
* Jahlil Okafor scored 26 points on 13-22 shooting from the field, which tied the career-high he set on opening night against Boston. His array of moves around the basket continues to be impressive no matter how much you see it. His free throw shooting (8 for his last 20), defensive rebounding (5 defensive rebounds in 32 minutes in a night where Toronto collected 17 extra opportunities), and team defense continue to be significant concerns.
* Seriously, Toronto grabbed 17 offensive rebounds despite missing only 45 shots. Defensive rebounds should not be a virtual 50-50 ball.
* Luis Scola scored 17 of his 21 points in the third quarter. The 21 points were a season high for Scola.
* Lost in the abysmal third quarter was a first quarter that was about as strong of one as the Sixers have played this year. The Sixers held a 34-29 lead after one, led by 10 points from Okafor and an on-target perimeter attack. Even the Sixers final line (103 points on 87 shots, 46% from the field, 41.4% from three, 28 assists to 11 turnovers) was a strong one offensively.
* Whereas the Sixers used to have the (legitimate) excuse that it was their poor offensive sets and turnovers that were causing them to struggle defensively, that hasn’t been the case since Nerlens Noel has been out. The Sixers have just flat-out struggled to stop anybody on that end of the court, and it’s truly amazing the impact one player can have in that regard. Okafor doesn’t currently provide the weakside help defense to be the anchor the team needs, and the guards on the perimeter don’t fight through screens or deny dribble penetration well enough to mask Okafor’s weakness. The fact that Noel makes this team look competent defensively is about as strong of a defensive player of the year case as you can make.
* Speaking of perimeter defense, Nik Stauskas continues to struggle on that end of the court. He continues to struggle offensively as well, for that matter: Stauskas has hit just 11 of his last 44 three-point attempts after going 2-7 from deep tonight, many of which were wide open.
* T.J. McConnell (13 assists to 2 turnovers) and Isaiah Canaan (18 points, 5-10 three-point shooting) were rare positives for the Sixers. Canaan seems to have really settled into his role as a shooter off the ball, and his ability to shoot on the move and coming off of screens is a valuable commodity for a team that is too static at times. Hollis Thompson (19 points, 5-6 from three) also shot the ball well from the perimeter. As I noted in the game preview, the Raptors struggle to defend the perimeter, so it wasn’t a great surprise that some Sixers shooters found their range in this game.
* For all of Okafor’s incredible scoring in the post, and some of his moves were incredible, he didn’t make as efficient use of the double teams he saw tonight as he had in previous nights. Some of his passes were off, poorly timed, or just opportunities he didn’t take advantage of. Still, his ability to draw a double team so consistently in the post is incredibly rare, and something I have confidence he, and the team, will figure out how to capitalize on more consistently in the future.
* Jerami Grant had a double-double, the first of his career. He continues to drive with more of a purpose, and seems like he’s in control now.
* The Brooklyn Nets defeated the Houston Rockets tonight, leaving the 0-8 Philadelphia 76ers as the NBA’s only winless team.