The Raptors were back at Scotiabank Arena for the first time in a while tonight to face the Philadelphia 76ers at home. The Raptors last played Sunday in Cleveland where they only had four regular players available and called up four players from the G League. We don’t need to remember that game too much.
Something we would like to remember tonight as we welcome the 76ers to Toronto? The last time Philly played at Scotiabank Arena — THAT game... yeah you know the one. Relive the magic below.
Tonight’s Raptors roster saw a few of the team’s key players return from Health and Safety Protocols. Pascal Siakam, Gary Trent Jr., Malachi Flynn, Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch all exited protocol today, but Birch and Achiuwa were ruled out due to injury. The starting lineup was Gary Trent Jr., Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe, Chris Boucher and Malachi Flynn filling in at the point guard position for Fred VanVleet (H&S Protocol).
As expected (and hoped) Pascal Siakam came out hot in the first quarter, not only creating for himself but finding his teammates. The score stayed pretty even throughout most of the first, with the lead switching back and forth often until Philly was able to pull ahead just slightly near the end of the quarter.
Siakam ended the quarter with 14 points and and two assists — the players with the most points behind him were Watanabe and Trent Jr. with three each. The score was 27-24 with the Raptors trailing at the end of the first.
The Raptors spent most of the second quarter trying to play catch up as the Sixers slowly extended their lead and kept the Raptors at a (very slight) distance. Another hiccup for the Raptors to overcome was early foul trouble with Boucher picking up three fouls and Siakam picking up two before halftime. With the team playing small ball — not by choice, both true centres were out with injury — Siakam and Boucher guarding Joel Embiid and being in foul trouble was concerning.
Regardless, the Raptors kept up and didn’t let the 76ers go on any sort of big run in the first half, and trailed by only seven points going into the break. Siakam and Trent Jr. combined for 29 of the Raptors’ 48 points in the first half.
The second half opened with DJ Wilson (one of the Raptors hardship signings) clearing protocols and joining the game. Wilson gave a promising performance with five steals in his first appearance for the team on Sunday in Cleveland.
Chris Boucher got hot in the third quarter, scoring three from beyond the arc in a row to bring his total up to 16 points at that point in the game. The Raptors continued to chip away at the lead until they finally got out ahead with a few three point shots by Svi Mykhailiuk. It was short lived as the 76ers came back and the lead flip flopped until the quarter ultimately ended with the 76ers ahead by four points with a score of 85-81.
Unfortunately the successes of the quarter were dampened by Yuta Watanabe suffering an ankle injury near the end of the third quarter and heading back to the locker room. He had 10 points, four rebounds and two assists at that point and after a few minutes in the locker room was back on the bench and available to play.
So the Raptors headed into the fourth to try and hold on. Unfortunately, a few missed shot attempts allowed the Sixers to creep ahead slowly to eventually lead by 12 with eight minutes to go in the game. By the six minute mark, the Raptors had yet again closed the gap to five, keeping themselves in it. Then, with less than two minutes in the game, Gary Trent Jr. sinks a three to get the Raptors ahead by one point.
The team was incredibly resilient while still missing key players to keep this game close until the end. The lead flipped back and forth several times in the last few minutes until Toronto was down by three points with just over six seconds to go. A coach’s challenge on an out of bounds play gave possession to the Sixers — the Raptors deciding to foul in an attempt to get possession back. Unfortunately, both free throws go in and the 76ers get away with the game.
Both Siakam and Boucher end the game with 28 points, and Trent Jr. had 19. Despite the obvious gaps in the roster, these performances give hope that if the Raptors can get healthy anytime soon, they’ll be alright. They held the 76ers defensively and never let them go on a substantial run, fighting hard until the very end.
The Raptors next game is on Friday December 31st against the LA Clippers in Toronto, where the Raptors will hope to bring a few more players back from Health and Safety Protocols and get one last win in to finish a... tumultuous year to say the least.
The game is at 7:30PM EST and can be watched on Sportsnet.