By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)Toronto 91, Philadelphia 86 – Box Score
With the return of both Nerlens Noel and Luc Mbah a Moute to the lineup against Toronto, the Sixers brought a strong, defensive effort that looked like it might result in their 9th win of the season. The Sixers were flying all over the court, forcing shot clock violations, and held the Raptors without a field goal for a 6-minute stretch of the 4th quarter. The resulting 15-1 Philadelphia run put the Sixers up 9, and barring some force of nature, the game was theirs.
Unfortunately for Sixers faithful, such a force of nature arrived in the form of Kyle Lowry. After a nondescript first 40+ minutes to the game, the former Villanova Wildcat and newest NBA All-Star decided to grab an invincibility star and and go supernova on the Sixers. Lowry scored 13 straight Toronto points, scoring on 5 of 6 possessions using an array of hard-nosed drives and impossible stepback threes. All in all, he scored 17 points in the last 6 minutes of the 4th quarter alone for a game-high 21 points.
With the Raptors holding a 4-point advantage, the Sixers made their counterpunch, as Michael Carter-Williams (12 points, 9 assists) scored 5 points on consecutive possessions to retake a 1-point lead. However, after a missed Toronto shot on the other end, the most controversial non-call of the game happened as Luc Mbah a Moute appeared to be shoved in the back on the rebound. The whistles remained silent, the Raptors scored on the second-chance opportunity, and Coach Brett Brown had to call a timeout just to keep himself from getting a technical arguing the play. Still, the Sixers were just down a single point and called the same exact play they won the game with against Brooklyn. Unfortunately, this time Carter-Williams’ pass for Noel was deflected for a turnover, and that was the ballgame.
At the start of the game, it looked like the Sixers might win in a rout, as they jumped out to a 15-0 lead. After he sat out the match-up a week and a half ago, the Raptors must not have checked the scouting report on Robert Covington, who was a human flamethrower early on. Big Shot Bob hit 4 first-quarter threes for 14 points in the initial frame. Unfortunately, he cooled off after the opening 12 minutes, missing the rest of his attempts from behind the arc and finishing with 18 points.
The reason that lead didn’t stick was an old problem for the Sixers: turnovers. When Covington wasn’t draining threes, the team was giving the ball away with 8 turnovers in the first quarter. Those giveaways allowed the Raptors to close within 8 by the end of the quarter. A 16-2 Toronto run eventually tied the game back up at 30; leads are easy come, easy go for the Sixers. It was a contest where the bench unit really let the Sixers down, as all 5 starters scored in double-figures and had positive plus-minuses. You might expect that against a Toronto team without the true ‘superstar’ and relies heavily on roster depth.
The Sixers have to rebound quickly from losing a game where they probably thought they earned a victory. They’ll face a Grizzlies team Saturday night which will once again bring back some memories of blowing a big 4th-quarter lead. You may recall last time those teams met back in December, the Sixers blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead and Memphis ended up winning in overtime. Holding on to the wins in games like that and last night against Toronto is the next step in the learning process for this young, developing Sixers roster.
Other Game Notes:
- Nerlens Noel showed no effects of having been ill earlier in the week, recording a double-double with 12 points and career-high 14 rebounds. MCW found Noel with a nice feed in transition for a slam to tie things up at 68 in the fourth quarter and get the Wells Fargo Center crowd back on its feet.
- Even beyond a loss, the worst news of the night was the announcement that Tony Wroten has a partially torn ACL, which will require surgery and force him to miss the rest of the season. Tough break for a guy that, while still having holes in his game, was making strides this season and leading the Sixers in scoring. We’ll miss you Wreckin’ Ball, until next year.
- K.J. McDaniels played his best all-around game in a while, with 14 points on 6-13 shooting, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and a block. Good a time as any for the Obligatory K.J. McDaniels highlight(s) of the night: