TORONTO — Brett Brown looked forward to Wednesday’s game here.
The 76ers coach said facing the Raptors in Toronto is “a legitimate litmus test” for his team.
“You come up here,” he said. “We have not had success up here. They are one of the East’s elite teams So you always leave the building learning a little bit more.”
Based on outcome, the Sixers still have some work to do.
The Raptors defeated them, 107-95, in Scotia Bank Arena, snapping Philly’s four-game winning streak. Unfortunately, the Sixers (29-17) also left the building with another injured player.
Josh Richardson suffered a left hamstring strain less than four minutes into the game and didn’t return. He will undergo further testing on Thursday. Asked how he injured his hamstring, the shooting guard declined comment and said he would talk about it Thursday.
The Sixers felt good about themselves heading into the game. They were fresh off much-needed consecutive road victories over New York (Saturday) and Brooklyn (Monday) after losing their previous six road games. But the Knicks and Nets were undermanned and struggling squads.
So this was a true barometer of how much the Sixers have improved. They played well but ultimately wore down, losing to the Raptors (30-14) for the 15th consecutive time in Toronto in the regular season.
Toronto did them in with their physicality and the depth. The Raptors had six players score in double-digits led by Fred VanVleet, who scored 22 points while making 6-of-7 three-pointers. Raptors coach Nick Nurse switched defenses, lineups, and schemes until he found what worked against the Sixers.
“We will come out of this thing more realistic to what it really takes to play as deep in the calendar as we hope to,” Brown said.
On this night, the Sixers shot 46 three-pointers, making 18 of them for 39.1%.
"The J-Rich thing hurt,” Brown said. “He went out quick. You knew that you are going to have to make some threes. They are physical all over the place. They scramble. So we thought that our best opportunity to steal a win on the road without [Joel Embiid] and J-Rich was to hunt some threes.”
They made 7-of-14 three-point attempts in the first quarter. However, they made 11-of-32 (34.3%) the rest of the way, including back-to-back threes by Matisse Thybulle and another by Furkan Korkmaz late in the game.
Brown was happy with his team’s three-point shooting.
“I think 39%, you will take,” he said. “We have shot 58 [threes]. What did we shoot, 46? It was one of our most efficient ways to score. I thought that to find ways to take advantage of their aggression was to try to play downhill.”
Brown said the game is going to tell you what shots are open, and he felt the three-pointers were the open shots.
Tobias Harris led the Sixers with 22 points. Ben Simmons had 17 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals, and 8 turnovers. Korkmaz had 17 points, while Thybulle added 13. Al Horford had 7 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
This isn’t the first time this season Richardson has dealt with an injury. He missed two games with right hip flexor tightness in November. Then in his third game back from that injury, he experienced right hamstring tightness. That sidelined the 26-year-old for six games.
The Sixers will be at a huge disadvantage if Richardson has to miss an extended amount of time. They already are playing without star center Embiid (ligament tear in left ring finger). Wednesday also marked the 45th and final day the team was allowed to have Norvel Pelle on its roster on his two-way contract.
As a result, the next few weeks will be interesting for the Sixers, with injuries and potential roster moves.
Even without Richardson, the Sixers gave Toronto some problems for 2 ½ quarters. However, the Raptors went on a 25-7 run to take a 81-73 lead with 10:28 remaining.
The Sixers got within two points (84-82) on Pelle’s foul shot with 7:04 left. But the Raptors kept hitting shots to halt Philly’s comeback attempt.