Joel Embiid vs. Toronto

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

No need to worry after 76ers loss in Toronto

Dave Uram
December 06, 2018 - 2:55 pm

Anything less than an appearance in the NBA Finals this season should be considered disappointing for the 76ers and their fans.

Pre-Jimmy Butler trade, that statement would be ridiculous. Post trade, it should be said without blinking an eye.

The Sixers lost by 11 points to arguably the best team in the NBA Wednesday night in Toronto. This happened despite the fact the Raptors shot 38.9 percent in the first half. The final score would’ve been a convincing blowout if that statistic was slightly better before halftime.

That being said, Kawhi Leonard and company are beatable. They’re not the Golden State Warriors of the past two seasons, not even close.

Related: Iverson admits '18 Sixers are better than his '01 team in Players Tribune Article​

The reason the Sixers lost Wednesday is because of extremely fixable mistakes and uncharacteristic performances. If those two scenarios were flipped last night, Philadelphia is talking about how they have the best team in the East, and barring significant injury, keep your calendars open in June for some basketball in South Philadelphia.

That’s why you should be feeling good about your basketball team today, in addition to annoyed over Wednesday’s outcome.


What happened to Joel Embiid?

The number one reason the Sixers lost to the Raptors was Joel Embiid played the worst game of his career.

Ten points wasn’t a career low for Embiid. He actually scored only nine against the Raptors at Wells Fargo Center his rookie season. But, that night he was three-of-six from the floor and three-of-five from the foul line.

On Wednesday, Embiid was an abysmal five-of-17 shooting, only finding himself at the charity stripe twice. That’s simply unacceptable.

Embiid mentioned postgame how he was on the perimeter a lot against the Raptors in this latest loss. Brett Brown and the coaching staff need to find ways to get Embiid on the block more often. Double teams will certainly come, and they did Wednesday. Yet when push comes to shove, there’s no logician excuse for Embiid taking only two foul shots.

The big man may be averaging only 13.6 points his last three games, so a night off in the near future is probably warranted. That being said, awful showings like Wednesday won’t be a regular thing for Embiid. If he and Butler each chip in with at least 25 (Butler scored 38), I like the Sixers chances, even if Leonard scores 38 and Jonas Valanciunas shocks the world with 26. Not to mention, if Ben Simmons is a little bit better (eight points and seven turnovers), the game is much closer as well.

True, Simmons played poorly against Toronto on October 30th, and there’s legitimate concerns about how really good teams will defend him in the postseason, but that’s why Embiid can’t stink up the joint like he did Wednesday. Butler makes up for Simmons perimeter shortcomings. Embiid needs to be a dominant force on nightly basis like he’s capable of being.

So, it’s more probable Embiid and Simmons deliver completely different performances from last night than Valanciunas adding his heroics off the bench with regularity, even though he’s scored a combined 49 points in 35 minutes against the Sixers this season.


Turnovers and Offensive Rebounds

Toronto scored 49 points off of 21 Sixers turnovers and 17 Raptor offensive rebounds. If you cut those numbers in half, the Sixers likely win since they shot the ball slightly better. Toronto ended up with 12 more attempts and that’s a result of avoidable mistakes by Philadelphia.

On October 30th, the 76ers turned the ball over 23 times, which resulted in 29 Toronto points in a 17 point loss. That night the Raptors were 51.1 percent from the floor, compared to the Sixers 41.8.

The data speaks for itself. As long as the Sixers shoot similarly to the Raptors, turn the ball over less and rebound better, it should be a 76ers win.

The common dominator in these losses is turnovers. In the first game the Sixers won the rebound battle by 10, but shot worse. Wednesday they shot about even, but Toronto owned the glass on their own end.

Defense and rebounding are two major sticking points for Brett Brown-coached teams. He won’t let those slip ups go unresolved.

And as far as the turnovers, that’s a matter of playing smart and under control. More often than not, teams cause their own self inflicted wounds rather than defenses forcing them. I’ll apply that same philosophy the Sixers.


Open Roster Spot

And the last reason I’m confident the Sixers will surpass the Raptors when it counts is because Elton Brand isn’t finished constructing this roster.

There’s a open roster spot after the Butler trade. Brand has been public that he wants to make an impact with that acquisition. You can never have a enough depth, and Brand is more than smart enough to find someone who will contribute effectively off the bench in the postseason.

If you’re a Sixers fan, Wednesday night was frustrating, as was October 30th.

Watching Leonard score 67 points when it was widely reported the Sixers were interested in trading for him in the off-season can’t be easy.

But, I’d take the “Big Four” of Embiid, Simmons, Butler and JJ Redick over Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Pascal Siakam and Valanciunas any day of the week.