The 76ers have often had their hands full with the Toronto Raptors and there is no let-off any time soon.
Following a 110-103 loss to Toronto on Sunday night, the 76ers have a rematch with the Raptors on Tuesday where they’ll attempt to right the ship that has seen them lose four of their last six.
Their lead over the surging Brooklyn Nets and their soon-to-be restored ‘Big 3’ of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference is now down to just a half-game. So a little more luck and some more support of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be needed for Philadelphia.
The Raptors made it clear on Sunday night that Embiid wasn’t going to be the man who beat them. After putting up 50 points on the Chicago Bulls Friday, Embiid still had a monster 25 points and 17 rebounds. But Toronto’s gameplan didn’t give him much.
“As soon as I crossed half court, they sent two, three guys at me to make sure that I wasn’t going to be the one that beat them tonight,” Embiid said. “Overall, I thought I stayed within myself and within the team concept, and I made a lot of passes out of it. We just didn’t make enough shots tonight.”
Embiid headlined those shooting difficulties, going 6-of-20 from the floor while the 76ers as a team shot 38.8% from the field.
Simmons, though, was nearly unstoppable, shooting 9-of-11 from the floor and 10-of-14 from the free-throw line for 28 points.
It was his first game back since dropping 42 on the Utah Jazz on Feb. 15, exhibiting new-found offensive aggression that is impressing his head coach, Doc Reivers.
“Sometimes it just takes a little bit before you see what we’re trying to do, and Ben’s doing it. He’s aggressive, he’s getting to the basket, he’s making plays, he’s forcing double teams with his speed,” Rivers said. “And our goal before the year was to see if he could get to the foul line 10 times a night, and he did that.”
“I think overall, we got a lot of great looks on offense,” Simmons added. “They just didn’t fall. … It’s just the way the game went.”
The lack of production off the bench certainly didn’t help the 76ers, either, as Rivers continues to come to the realization that he needs at least one of his headlining trio of Embiid, Simmons, or Tobias Harris to lead the second unit on the floor.
“We’ve got to have Tobias, Joel, or Ben with that unit. And when we don’t, sometimes you just look at the lead,” Rivers said. “Tonight was one of those things where honestly, I was just looking at the score. You could see it’s going to be one of these games where it’s going to come down to the end.”