Sixers knock off Raptors for seventh win in nine games
76ers coach Brett Brown studies the growth of teams that were in situations similar to his. He believes the Boston Celtics are two or three seasons ahead of his squad. The Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota are "a few years" ahead of the Sixers, he said.
76ers coach Brett Brown studies the growth of teams that were in situations similar to his.
He believes the Boston Celtics are two or three seasons ahead of his squad. The Milwaukee Bucks and Minnesota are "a few years" ahead of the Sixers, he said.
"This program will be about five years ahead of us," Brown said of the Toronto Raptors before facing them Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.
The 17,223 in attendance might swear that the Sixers will get there sooner than that.
The Sixers defeated the Raptors, 94-89, to post their seventh victory in nine games. In the process, they snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Raptors (28-14). The last time the Sixers beat Toronto was Jan. 18, 2013.
Toronto, which reached the Eastern Conference finals last season, saw its four-game winning streak end.
Joel Embiid "definitely" thinks the Sixers are closer than five years behind the conference's second-best team.
"Winning games like this, we don't even have Ben [Simmons] back yet," the rookie center said. Jahlil Okafor "hasn't been able to get minutes, and Jah is good. You can tell by the game he had against Washington [on Saturday]. So there's a lot of talent still waiting.
"So I think we are closer than what people think we are."
If so, Embiid is a major reason. He's also one of the main reasons the Sixers (14-26) were able to upset the Raptors.
The 7-foot-2, 270-pounder scored his team's final four points and had a clutch block with 22.9 seconds left. Embiid finished with a game-high 26 points, scoring 20 or more points for the 10th straight game. The rookie added nine rebounds, two assists, one steal, and two blocked shots.
"Down the stretch, Joel was a special feature in that game," Nerlens Noel said. "He came in and dominated when it was definitely needed."
Ersan Ilyasova (18 points), T.J. McConnell (10), and Robert Covington (10) were the Sixers' other double-digit scorers.
Embiid, Covington, and McConnell all made big plays down the stretch.
Embiid hit a pair of foul shots to knot the score at 86 with 1 minute, 42 seconds left. McConnell gave the Sixers a two-point lead with a layup on the next possession.
McConnell added a pair of foul shots to give the Sixers a 90-86 advantage with 35.2 seconds remaining. Following a Raptors timeout, Covington blocked Kyle Lowry's three-point attempt with 30.1. The Raptors point guard grabbed the rebound before driving the lane. But the former Villanova and Cardinal Dougherty standout's layup was blocked by Embiid with 22.9 seconds left.
He grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Lowry, who fouled out on the play.
Embiid made both foul shots to put the Sixers up by 92-86 with 20.7 seconds left. Then he hit a pair with 3.7 seconds remaining to ice it.
"I'm just trying to do my job," said Embiid, the runaway favorite for rookie of the year and an NBA All-Star Game candidate. "I was at the right place at the right moment [on the block]. I stepped to the line and made free throws."
Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan finished with a team-high 25 points. Fourteen of the two-time NBA all-star's points came in the fourth quarter.
He struggled from the field early on, missing all six of his first-quarter shot attempts. DeRozan shot 11 for 21.
Lowry, a two-time NBA all-star, added 24 points and four assists. However, he made just 5 of 13 shots.
Meanwhile, small forward DeMarre Carroll was held scoreless after missing his six shot attempts before suffering a game-ending neck injury in the third quarter. Reserve guard Terrence Ross also struggled, scoring eight points on 3-for-10 shooting.
Jonas Valanciunas added 10 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. But as a whole, the Raptors shot 39.5 percent (34 of 86) from the field and 25 percent (6 of 24) on three-pointers.
In addition to Embiid, Nik Stauskas and Dario Saric had two blocks for the Sixers.
"That is the second best offensive team in the NBA," Brown said. "They average, I think, 114 points and we held them to 89. Think of that."