The Toronto Raptors got 15 points from Pascal Siakam in the first quarter and 16 from Gary Trent Jr. in the third, as they were able to hold off various presses from the Philadelphia 76ers and win 119-109 on Wednesday night.
The game was a microcosm for where both teams are at on this young season, as the Raptors improved to 3-2 and the Sixers fell to 1-4 — a surprising start for a team many pegged to be perpetually among the East’s elite.
As they have in previous games, the Raptors ran as much as they could through Pascal Siakam, and continued to find winning basketball through their budding superstar. Siakam was red hot to start this game, scoring 15 of his 20 points in the first quarter alone, hitting his first four threes and five of his first six shots. He had no problem letting primary defender P.J. Tucker know about it either.
Rico Hines talked before the season about Pascal Siakam playing with a little more snarl to his game and here he is talking s**t after every jumper he hits.— Amit Mann (@Amit_Mann) October 27, 2022
Good start. pic.twitter.com/W5JazFqVwm
Siakam would also finish with a game-high 13 assists and five boards, his shooting cooling to a modest 7-for-16.
Other Raptors were there to pick up the slack, though. A porous Sixers team, who gave Toronto everything they wanted in transition all game, tried to slow things down with zone sets and grifting for fouls in the second half. Without the up-and-down to liven things up, Gary Trent Jr. made three clutch third quarter triples out of half court sets — part of 16 in the frame and a team-high 27 in the game. Trent Jr. will always be a streaky presence for the Raptors, but tonight — with five Raptors players struggling with foul trouble at halftime — his shooting was needed, and the makes were more than welcome.
Also steadying the ship, as he always does, was Fred VanVleet. Fred had two key jumpers down the stretch of the fourth quarter when the Sixers cut Toronto’s lead to six, part of his 15 points, eight assists, two rebounds and three blocks(!) in the game. Lucky you if you had him in fantasy basketball.
For the Sixers, Joel Embiid didn’t always put on his best game face in this one — there was a lot of business decisions made on the defensive end as various Raptors waltzed through the lane — but his offense did its share of talking. Matching Tyrese Maxey for a game-high of 31 points, Embiid was a scorching 12-of-17 from the field. Philly struggled to get other contributions, though, as their bench scored just 18 points — 12 of those from De’Anthony Melton — while the Raptors had 26 from their reserves.
The two teams meet again on Friday, and it’ll be interesting to see if any fire is lit under the Sixers. So far this season, they’ve looked disjointed, and that was often the case again tonight — especially on the defensive end.
Their zone looks have been somewhat effective against Toronto, but Nick Nurse and the Raptors coaching staff plain outsmarted what the Sixers had to offer tonight. Matching up against Philly’s second units, which feature James Harden as a heliocentric piece, Nurse went with all of Siakam, Chris Boucher, Christian Koloko and Precious Achiuwa — a monstrous set of arms cutting off any Harden path into the paint. The Raptors handily won both those stretches without Embiid on the floor, and any adjustments made for those parts of the game specifically will be key in two nights’ time.