By: Kylan Watson
After a disappointing loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, the Philadelphia 76ers traveled across the border to renew their rivalry with the Toronto Raptors for the first time in the 2023-2024 season. This matchup did not disappoint as it took a Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey 34-piece to keep the Raptors down 114-107 to get their first win of the season.
The Sixers did not start the game off well, especially from the three-point line in the first quarter. They only made two/13 three-pointers in the period. Toronto on the other hand could not miss from beyond the arc they made their first eight three-point attempts and got out to a 12-point lead and were threatening to run away with this game. However, the Sixers finally got it together and started to make shots. Thanks to the duo of Joel Embiid (34-points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had eight assists) and Tyrese Maxey (34-points, had seven assists, and seven/nine three-pointers), they refused to let this team drop back-to-back games to start the season. Maxey has continued to show that his offseason work to get stronger and deadlier from the three-point line has paid off. He was hitting some deep three-pointers tonight and made the Raptors pay for giving him any space to attack the basket or hit a shot from the mid-range. He made seven three-pointers tonight and was the reason they were able to retake the lead. Maxey scored 15 of his 34-points in the second quarter after going scoreless in the first period. If he can continue to show his growth as a three-point threat and his improved playmaking skills the Sixers will be a deadlier team than most people expect no matter what happens with the James Harden situation. In the first two games he thrived as a point-guard and many people questioned if he could be that and so far, he is proving his doubters wrong early this season. Embiid had a better game against the Raptors than he did on Thursday night. He is a notorious slow starter as the season begins but tonight, he and Maxey put the team on their back and his improved play-making showed up in the second straight game. He had another eight-assist performance and if Embiid can improve his playmaking and continue to find the open man. The Sixers can go far in the postseason, if he can decrease his scoring and up the assist total then Embiid can put his teammates in great position to score and build up their confidence for the postseason.
The Raptors did not make it easy on the Sixers their defense and three-point shooting made it difficult on the Sixers throughout this game. They were lethargic on defense and that allowed Toronto’s shooters to find the open space and hit shots. Scottie Barnes scored 24-points in tonight’s contest to lead them he could not be stopped in this contest. It did not matter who was on him, he was hitting his shots and imposing his will on this game. Despite his dominance on the offensive side the Sixers were able to slow him down in the second half and cut down on the Raptors’ easy shot opportunities. That allowed them to pull-away in this game and get their first win of the season. This Raptors team is not to be over looked though they play a tough style of basketball and they will be a playoff team in the loaded Eastern Conference.
The Sixers will now prepare to face the Portland Trailblazers tomorrow night in their home-opener. They will need to be stronger on the defensive side as they will face one of the best young backcourts in the league in Anfernee Simons and Scoot Henderson. Philly will need to stay attached and make things difficult for both of them defensively if they want to keep the Trailblazers offense in check. Additionally, on the offensive side they will need to continue the ball movement to get high percentage shots. If they can do that, they should be able to get their second win of the season.