Perhaps it was only fitting that the 76ers weren’t at full strength in Tuesday night’s contest against the Toronto Raptors.
That’s because even if they were, the outcome still might not compare to anticipation surrounding what the Sixers will do before Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. Coach Brett Brown said the organization was communicating with a lot of teams about possible trades.
“Anything that shakes out, I don’t know,” said Brown, whose squad suffered a 119-107 setback to the Raptors at the Wells Fargo Center. “I would not be telling the truth if you say something is incredibly imminent."
Joel Embiid scored 14 of his game-high 37 points in the fourth quarter. His heroics enabled the Sixers, who trailed by 21 points, to close the gap to seven points (112-105) with 3 minutes, 47 seconds remaining.
After Kawhi Leonard made a foul shot to put the Raptors up eight points, Landry Shamet made a three-point basket with 2 minutes, 47 seconds left. However, the shot was called off as official Tony Brown said Shamet committed an offensive foul on Pascal Siakam during the play.
The Raptors went on to win by 12.
Embiid also had 13 rebounds, 3 blocks and 4 turnovers in what was his 44th double-double of the season. Ben Simmons added 20 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, three steals and 6 turnovers. Jimmy Butler (18 points) and Furkan Korkmaz (11) were the team’s other double-figure scorers.
The loss dropped the Sixers (34-20) to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, while the second-place Raptors improved to 39-19.
Leonard led Toronto with 24 points. Serge Ibaka had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Villanova product Kyle Lowry had 20 points and six assists.
But Tuesday was a prime example of why the Sixers need to upgrade their roster before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline or in the buyout market, which concludes on March 1. (March 1 is the last day teams and bought-out players can find a new squad to be eligible to compete in the postseason.)
On this night, the Sixers were without power forward Wilson Chandler and shooting guard JJ Redick for the second consecutive game.
Just like in Saturday’s loss at the Sacramento Kings, Mike Muscala started in place of Chandler, while Shamet got the start for Redick. And just like they did against the Kings, Muscala and Shamet struggled in starting roles.
Muscala finished with eight points on 1-for-3 shooting. Shamet shot 2-of-8 en route to scoring six points. Muscala had one point in the first half, while Shamet failed to score.
As a team, the Sixers defense was lackluster and the team looked out of sorts.
Redick missed Tuesday’s game with nausea after being held out of Saturday’s game for rest. He is expected to return for Friday’s home contest against the Denver Nuggets. However, Chandler is out two to three weeks with a strained right quadriceps.
Second-year guard Markelle Fultz is also sidelined with what his agent said is diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome. Meanwhile, rookie guard Zhaire Smith has yet to play due to a Jones fracture in his left foot and an allergic reaction to food.
But the Sixers do have needs.
Their biggest ones are a perimeter defender and frontcourt help.
New Orleans Pelicans six-time All-Star Anthony Davis is the most sought after player at the trade deadline. The big man is someone the Sixers and just about every other team in the league would like to snatch up before the deadline. According to reports, the Sixers are also interested in acquiring New Orleans power forward Nikola Mirotic. He would be a solid upgrade to their bench.
So would guards Terrence Ross of the Orlando Magic and Wesley Matthews of the New York Knicks. The Sixers have been mentioned among teams that had some interest in acquiring Ross via trade. Meanwhile, the Sixers would like to acquire Matthews in free agency assuming the Knicks buy out his contract.
“I mean, when you fast-forward, and I look at it almost this simple, when you fast-forward out and say, ‘What wins in the playoffs.’ It’s men; it’s can you switch and it’s can you make a three?" Brown said. "That’s how I see it. That’s modern-day NBA basketball.
“And so, do we need this, do we need that, I don’t know. I mean, I do know.”
But with the Sixers down 20 points late in the half, Sixers fans let general manager Elton Brand, seated on the baseline, their input.
“Anthony Davis is available, Elton,” one fan yelled. “We’re all waiting! Mirotic.”
“We’re losing by 20!” yelled a fan. “It’s national TV.”
“Mirotic averages eight rebounds a game,” a fan yelled.
Sixers two-way player Shake Milton fractured his right hand during the Delaware Blue Coats game against the Austin Spurs in Texas on Tuesday. He will be reevaluated on Wednesday.
Brown was asked if Fultz would be included in the Sixers' postseason plans.
“Right now we haven’t seen Markelle for how long?” he said. "And we all understand his progression back to the court has been sort of managed in a slow-type fashion. And so, for Markelle, right now I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised with how he arrives back with us, more than assume that he is going to be there.