Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from the humbling of the 76ers

Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kyle Lowry (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors traveled to Pennslyvania to humble the Philadelphia 76ers with a strong team-orientated performance. What did we learn from the game, though?

The Toronto Raptors were looking to once again stifle the Philadelphia 76ers and welcomed Kyle Lowry back into the fold.

Toronto was coming off of a comfortable victory against the Clippers on Sunday afternoon, while the Sixers were returning home from a west coast road trip that included a big win against the Warriors.

The teams traded buckets early on, the Raptors edged out to a 14-10 lead, courtesy of a Pascal Siakam corner three following some deft ball movement from the whole team that led to Lowry finding Siakam in the right corner. The lead was stretched to nine, a corner three from Norman Powell, thanks to a superb pass from Danny Green in transition.

The Raptors got the line frequently in the first quarter, shooting a perfect 11-11. Their ability to draw fouls was a key component in getting out to a 12-point lead by the end of the first quarter, Delon Wright notably made all four of his free-throws before attacking Joel Embiid at the basket for a nice lay-up with 2.4 seconds left.

The lead was only strengthened in the second quarter, Kyle Lowry had two threes upon checking back into the game, the second coming off of a screen where he never stopped moving, appearing above the break to hit the catch-and-shoot three.

Toronto’s ability to score points off turnovers was huge in creating a comfortable lead by half time, the Sixers had turned the ball over nine times by half time leading to 16 points, which in turn, meant the Raptors had a 17-point advantage heading into the third quarter.

The third quarter started a little dicey in the third quarter. Serge Ibaka, who had a great game, earned his fifth foul with 9:56 left on the clock in the third quarter. Ibaka came out and Greg Monroe came in, uh-oh, extended minutes.

Lowry responded with his fifth three, a deep triple from above the left break. Lowry wouldn’t make another three but his impact on the game didn’t waver. The Sixers, however, started to respond and cut the lead down to 10 with less than five minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Every time the Sixers cut down the lead the Raptors would hit back and build it back up. Some great ball movement following a Ben Simmons turnover brought the ball to Kawhi Leonard in the corner, make it a 19-point lead. Toronto led by 18 at the end of the third quarter, even with Embiid and Simmons on the court playing extended minutes the Raptors made their opportunities count.

Philadelphia made a game of it in the fourth quarter, a 7-0 run cutting the game to single digits for the first time in a long time, Embiid hit a nice fadeaway to make it a 6-point game. All of a sudden, the Raptors were reeling.

Some strong offensive rebounding and the sturdy defense allowed the Raptors to hold the Sixers to just two points in the final three minutes. Kawhi Leonard was a frequent visitor to the free-throw line to seal the win, the Raptors prevailing 119-107.

It’s worth noting that this may well be the last time the Raptors ever beat Philadelphia, as it has since emerged that the Sixers have traded for Tobias Harris. Ouch.

Here are my three takeaways from the game.

1. Kyle Lowry the catalyst

Whether Kyle Lowry was frustrated by the dubious links to Memphis, or he just wanted to put in a strong performance against a fellow contender, Lowry was on fire last night, especially in the first half.

Lowry had four threes in the first half and was the fulcrum of everything that was good for the Raptors. When he is at his best, the Raptors more than likely win, when Lowry scores 20-plus points the Raptors are 10-2. His aggression is linked to their winning games, and vice versa.

Lowry is at his best allows others to flow in the game too, Serge Ibaka had 20 points and a lot of those were linked to the play of Lowry. He makes the team tick.

2. Kawhi Leonard is hot even when he’s cold

Even when Leonard isn’t at his best offensively, he’s still the best defender on the court.

Leonard was 3-11 from the field but had 24 points courtesy of 14 made free-throws. He came up big and got to the line late on, but not much was falling prior. Defensively though, Leonard made life hell for the Sixers.

He had three steals and five defensive rebounds. When matched up with Ben Simmons, Kawhi was key in stagnating the Sixers offense and Simmons himself, who had six turnovers in the game. The Raptors can rely on Kawhi no matter how he’s playing, he always comes up big.

3. Joel Embiid is an unstoppable force

Embiid was by far the best player for the Sixers, and maybe even the best player on the court.

An unbelievable protector of the rim and an all-around great offensive weapon, Embiid did it all last night. He benefitted from extended minutes against Greg Monroe but he had a strong game regardless of who he was matched up with.

Embiid had 37 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks. Another dominant performance from one of the best centers in the league. Maybe the game goes a little differently if he’s matched up with Valanciunas but all we know is that Embiid had an incredible game and was the catalyst for a late Sixers run.

Love him or hate him, Embiid is world-class.

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