TAMPA, Fla. — Did the Toronto Raptors provide the recipe for beating the 76ers?
The Raptors double-teamed MVP candidate Joel Embiid as soon as he caught the ball —if not sooner — Sunday night Amalie Arena. He responded by forcing some shots and getting a bit frustrated at times in the Sixers’ 110-103 loss.
Trapping Embiid is not only a good basketball tactic but a good psychological tactic. It also puts pressure on his teammates to make shots.
“I thought in the third quarter, as he said ‘I had 100 good looks tonight, the ball just didn’t go in,’” Doc Rivers said. “There’s nights like that.”
While the Raptors focused heavily on Embiid, his teammates had a lot of good looks at the basket. The problem is their shots weren’t going in, either.
“And I thought the misses started mounting up as far as how we were handling it,” Rivers said. “So we’ve got to do a better job of handling misses, because that is going to happen in a game.”
Embiid finished with 25 points on 6-for-20 shooting to go with a game-high 17 rebounds. Ben Simmons scored a game-high 28 points while making 9 of 11 shots on mostly drives to the basket. Danny Green had nine points on 3-for-6 shooting, all three-pointers, before fouling out with 6 minutes, 40 seconds remaining.
However, the rest of their teammates combined to shoot 15 of 48 (31.2%), including going 7 of 28 (25%) on three-pointers. Tobias Harris (13 points on 6-for-17 overall shooting, 1 of 9 on threes) and Seth Curry (4-for-12, 2 of 7 on threes) had two of the most notable off-shooting nights.
One way of countering the Raptors’ tactic could be to put Embiid in pick-and-rolls. The Sixers could have him rolling down in the lane and get the ball to him before the opposing team can double him.
Double-teaming Embiid isn’t new. On Sunday, it just seems that was the game plan. One has to wonder if teams will double-team the way the Raptors did more consistently after seeing Sunday’s results.
That could lead to his taking bad shots or becoming frustrated.
Like the Raptors, teams are going to try to make sure Embiid isn’t the one that beats them. Toronto even double-teamed him 20 feet away from the basket. That prevented him from turning and facing the basket and getting to his normal spots.
“As soon as I crossed halfcourt, they sent two, three guys at me,” Embiid said. “And you know, the whole night, I made the right play. I shared the ball, passed to my teammates.
“We could have made more shots. We didn’t. A lot of shots were in and out.”
Embiid also missed a lot of shots that he has made all season.
“So,” he said, “we’ve just got to do a better job next time.”
The Sixers (20-11) will get an opportunity to correct things Tuesday night in the teams’ second contest in three days at Amalie Arena.
Philly is clinging to a half-game lead over the Brooklyn Nets atop the Eastern Conference standings. Fifth-place Toronto (15-14) is riding a four-game winning streak.
The Raptors are playing their home games in the Cigar City this season because of Canada’s border restrictions and the public safety measures in Toronto.