6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

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6 observations from Sixers-Raptors

BOX SCORE

Believe it or not, the Toronto Raptors wrested first place in the Atlantic Division away from the Sixers on Wednesday night with the 108-98 victory (see Instant Replay).

At 5-8 and riding a four-game losing streak, the Sixers are a half-game off the pace in the division.

Here are a few things that caught our eye in the epic, first-place showdown:

1. Michael Carter-Williams returns
After missing four straight games, rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams returned to the lineup for the Sixers. Before the game, coach Brett Brown said Carter-Williams would have no restrictions and he wasn’t kidding. The rookie logged 34 minutes.

2. Banging in the post
Toronto big men Jonas Valanciunas and Tyler Hansbrough were a bundle of energy (and elbows) in the low post. Though neither player made much of a dent into the stat sheet, they mixed it up with Sixers big men Daniel Orton, Lavoy Allen and Spencer Hawes. Fortunately the battle in the post didn’t go beyond clean, hard basketball. A few times the players got all tangled up and fell into a heap on the floor. But that was it … just some big guys pushing each other around.

3. Defend the house
Certainly the mission of any team in the NBA is to force the opposing offense to take shots from the yard, which is the area outside of the paint and inside of the three-point line. If a team is going to beat you, the reasoning goes, let them do it with long two-pointers.

The Sixers did a good job of forcing the Raptors into taking shots from the yard in the first quarter. But after chucking up eight of them in the first, the Raptors took just nine more from the yard for the rest of the game.

That hardly compares to the efficiency of the Houston Rockets, though. In last week’s overtime victory, the Rockets took just five shots from the yard in the entire game. Somehow they figured out how to lose.

4. No Thad
The Sixers played without veteran Thad Young, who was not with the team on Wednesday night because of “personal reasons.” Young would have been valuable for the Sixers in pick-and-roll defense and in running the fast break. Instead, Hawes started the game at power forward with Orton at center.

5. Hawes’ career night
On Jan. 1, 2010, Spencer Hawes shot 12 for 20 with four three-pointers in a one-point loss to the Lakers for a career-high 30 points.

Since then the 30-point game had not been threatened by Hawes.

That is until Wednesday night.

Hawes shot 10 for 13 with three three-pointers and 10 rebounds for 28 points, just missing the career high. Meanwhile, Hawes notched his eighth double-double of the season, second-most in the NBA.

6. Homecomings, of sorts
Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova product, Kyle Lowry, had 13 points and 10 assists in his former sometime home court. Lowry entered the game averaging 12 points and six assists per game. His steady hand at point guard helped keep the Raptors’ turnover tally to a paltry nine.

Additionally, Raptors assistant coach Tom Sterner was close to his hometown of York and his old stomping grounds of Lancaster, where he attended Millersville U. and coached at Lancaster Catholic and Franklin & Marshall College. Sterner was a scout for the Sixers two years ago.

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

NBA power rankings: Sixers can't escape the lower third

With the NBA's glorified exhibition in the rearview mirror, we reenter reality of the remaining NBA season. The Sixers still are looking for suitors for Jahlil Okafor while questions swirl around about the health of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

Some claim they are tanking still, and if those people are talking about the recent NBA power rankings then they would be right. 

Games before the All-Star break
Last Monday and Wednesday the Sixers split their two games before the break, beating the Hornets and losing to the Celtics. 

Dario Saric continues to be the Sixers' most productive player in the absence of Embiid. In the short week, he averaged 19 points (a team leader in that category both games) and 11 rebounds. 

T.J. McConnell continues to control the floor at the point, dishing out seven assists against the Hornets and eight against the Celtics. 

An inability to finish has been the story for the Sixers without Embiid. The Sixers led by one at the half against the Hornets and were tied with the Celtics at the midway point. These are good signs, but these guys are far from being contenders in the east. The experts agree. 

What's next
Only two games this week for the 76ers: Friday at home against the Wizards (7 p.m./CSN) and on the road on Sunday to play the Knicks (7:30 p.m./CSN).

What the experts say
ESPN’s Marc Stein had some fun with his rankings this week using tweets and memes to describe a team’s current situation. The Sixers dropped from 20 to 23 in his rankings — not a significant drop but a drop nonetheless. 

He used this one in his evaluation of the Sixers:

NBA.com’s John Schuhmann bumped the Sixers up from 22 to 21 this week. He sees great improvement in Saric’s game stating: “Saric has already shown a lot of improvement and TLC, with his length on the perimeter, could prove to be a great fit next to the other core pieces if he can knock down shots.”

He added a positive thought on the Demarcus Cousins trade and how the Sixers still made out well even though they were not able to ship Okafor to the Pelicans. 

“The Sixers lost a potential trading partner with the DeMarcus Cousins trade to New Orleans, but still came out a winner in the deal, because they can swap first round picks with the Kings this year and own Sacramento's pick (with no protections) in 2019.”

Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes did not move the 76ers from the 21 spot on his list last week. He writes that he is intrigued with this processing team: “Sorry, but I'm never going to stop being delighted by the Sixers finding ways to win.”

He made his prediction for games won by the Sixers if they get Embiid back on the court: “It's hard to know what Simmons might bring, but Embiid's contributions are well understood. If he makes it back and looks healthy, Philly could easily win 30-plus games.”

Finally, Fox Sports’ Andrew Lynch dropped the Sixers from 27 to 28 – yikes! His outlook is very pessimistic as he looks exclusively at the injuries of Embiid and Simmons. He writes that a complete shutdown of Simmons would make sense as the season’s end gets closer by the day. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Give and Go: Do Joel Embiid's injuries limit his ceiling?

Give and Go: Do Joel Embiid's injuries limit his ceiling?

With the team at the All-Star break, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are CSNPhilly.com producer/reporters Matt Haughton and Paul Hudrick.

In this edition, we describe Joel Embiid's rookie season.

Haughton
There are so many different ways to go when describing Joel Embiid's long-awaited rookie season.

The numbers say dominant. Embiid leads all rookies in points (20.2), rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.4) per game. He's also second in field goal percentage (46.6) among first-year players.

Of course, the injury situation — and handling of it by the team — has made Embiid's first season a bit frustrating. After waiting two seasons for the center to overcome foot injuries, you can understand the team's cautious approach. However, the almost random playing patterns at times and the near radio silence on his medical status has left a bad taste.

Still, overall I would say Embiid's rookie campaign has been refreshing for the franchise. Following three straight seasons of absolute abysmal basketball, the Sixers finally appear to have a real building block. 

Not only that, but Embiid also gives them a charismatic personality that is filling up the Wells Fargo Center again and being recognized on a national stage. You can't ask for much more after what the organization endured in recent years.

Hudrick
Describing Embiid's season depends on which perspective you're looking at it from. 

When he's been on the court, it's been unbelievable. He's a 22-year-old Cameroonian who's only been playing the game of basketball for a few years. He also didn't play for two years after two foot surgeries. Even with all that, he's been the most exciting basketball player this city has seen since Allen Iverson.

From a statistical standpoint, his numbers align with some of the greatest rookie big men of all time. While mentioning Embiid and Hakeem Olajuwon in the same breath may be premature, it's an indication of just how spectacular he has been. Their rookie seasons actually compare favorably.

Of course, the injuries are concerning. Will he ever be a full-time player? Embiid recently expressed his interest in playing back-to-back games. The organization won't give him the opportunity this year and I'm not sure how many opportunities they'll give him in the future. 

With that said, Embiid can still make an impact in 60-something games a season. When he's on the court, he can be one of the most dominant players in the league. When healthy, Embiid is the most exciting athlete in Philadelphia.