They're trying, I guess. That's the reaction you get when asking about the Philadelphia 76ers. I added the "I guess" part because I can't imagine people are working super hard to break down the Sixers' game. People watch them--the remains of their fan base or professionals, for example--but for what? When an NBA team openly declares it will waste multiple seasons in an effort to snag that next generational superstar, it becomes extremely easy to just half-regard them until that actually happens. (Assuming it happens.)
So yeah, I only half watched this game. I didn't intend for that to happen but, well, you're not going to believe this, but no one on the HQ staff was jumping to recap this one. People had family events, a life to lead. Myself, I was at a book club with friends. We were talking about Donna Tartt's "The Goldfinch." This is what happens with the Sixers come to town--there tends to be a studied indifference.
Of course, the Raptors also like to lower themselves to their competition. By the end of the first half, both teams were shooting 41.5 percent, and both were making some mistakes on D. (I could specifically call out James Johnson and Lucas Nogueira here, but let's just move on.) Fortunately, the Raptors have Kyle Lowry, who bombed 3s and dictated tempo, and Luis Scola, who led the team with 16 points in the first half (he finished with 22), while the Sixers had 12 turnovers after 24 minutes (22 for the game). Toronto was only up by eight points at this point, 52-44, but it felt like at any moment it could be more. It's hard, also, to not feel sad for the Sixers. They're trying after all.
The third quarter, amazingly, was more of the same. Even after Lowry took Nerlens Noel out of the game with an errant elbow. (Lowry got T-ed up afterwards, but he was lucky to not get assessed a flagrant foul, or worse.) The Raptors allowed the Sixers to hang around just enough mostly due to some subpar shooting. Against anyone else, this would be trouble, but well...
Non-Scola Raptors are shooting 31% from field, 20% from 3. DeRozan/Lowry are 9-for-24. But, Sixers. Toronto takes an 11-pt lead to the 4th— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) December 14, 2015
Ideally this would be a game for the Raptors to let their bench get some run. To that end, Nogueira and Johnson got 15 minutes apiece. Norman Powell, who probably felt due, didn't sniff the court by the 4th, and as the lead shrunk to six, it was unclear whether he'd make it out. Anthony Bennett was presumably upset.
But come on, this is the Sixers. They're not an NBA-level team. They had Nik Stauskas guarding Kyle Lowry for stretches. There is no way this team was going to reasonably beat the Raptors in Toronto. Especially not when Lowry and DeRozan are unfortunately forced to play 35 and 34 minutes each. Lowry finished with 16 points, DeRozan put in an efficient 25. The lead stayed up and then grew in the 4th; the Raptors ultimately won 96-76, and they've now won four in a row. (And yes, Powell and Bennett did finally end up getting in the game in the last 90 seconds; the former had a steal and breakaway dunk for his trouble, the latter a corner 3.)
And in case you're wondering: We decided that "The Goldfinch" is a bit too well-regarded, its Pulitzer a bit underserved. Tartt pours on the language to make a point she believes to be more profound than it actually is.
Still, it tries hard.