PHILADELPHIA — It has been over a year since the Raptors lost three games in a row, but they’re back in that unfamiliar territory today after a poor shooting night in Philly.
Normally the words poor shooting night and Philly conjure up images of Joel Embiid but not in this case.
In this case it was every Raptor not named OG Anunoby or Kyle Lowry and it was a big reason why the Raptors dropped this one by a 110-104 score.
“I didn’t think offensively we were good enough,” Raps’ head coach Nick Nurse said. “We’re just not in very good rhythm at times offensively.
“It’s just too many possessions where there’s not very good execution just to getting to a trigger or play call or whatever and then within the play call, the screening needs to improve, just the basics need to improve as well.”
In short things are off and while Nurse didn’t want to come right out and say why, Kyle Lowry did.
“I missed a lot of games and Serge missed nine games or 10 games whatever it was,” Lowry said. “You get everybody back guys have to figure out things again. They won a bunch of games without me and Serge there. They played hard and they were in a rhythm, but then you have to integrate us back in. We are a part of this team. Even before (the injuries) we were 6-2 when guys went out and roles changed, situations changed. I think now we are just at a point where we are playing good teams and we have to figure out how to get everybody back to understanding what roles they are in.”
The Sixers didn’t get their normal contribution from Embiid who was held to just 10 points but he avoided the embarrassing donut beside his name in the boxscore this time. What they did get was more than enough from the likes of Tobias Harris, Ben Simmons, and Matisse Thybulle to get the job done.
In addition to an inability to hit the broadside of a barn for the better part of the night, the Raptors were also uncharacteristically sloppy with the basketball turning it over 17 times leading directly to 16 Philly points.
Losing Fred VanVleet to a bruised knee that he suffered the previous game but tried to play through unsuccessfully into second quarter only exacerbated the Raptors’ troubles.
The last time the Raptors lost three in a row was a year ago in mid November when the New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics put it on them.
That time, like this time the losing skid began with two at home and was followed by one on the road. If there’s any solace in this run of ineptitude compared to that one it is that the level of competition was at least superior in this run.
All of Miami, Houston and Philadelphia are playing above or close to .700 basketball.
The Sixers were without Josh Richardson, who was so good in the first meeting between these two teams, a Toronto win at Scotiabank Arena, but with Harris going off like he was, his absence was barely noticed.
Harris started quick and kept up a steady scoring pace most of the night finishing with 26 points on 10-of-22 shooting.
Anunoby had one of his stronger nights but the Raptors needed more like his if they were going to get this game.
Thybulle wasn’t even sure to play in this game after rolling his ankle in the win over Cleveland on Saturday night but he showed no ill effects from that injury against Toronto shooting 5-of-7 from distance for a 20-point night.
Simmons, who had a breakout scoring night against Cleveland with 34 points in less than three quarters continued his good play with 16 points, nine assists and 11 rebounds.
Down 15 at the half, the likelihood of a comeback was further lessened by the first half injury to VanVleet.
Nurse revealed VanVleet originally hurt the knee in the loss to Houston. He tried to play through it last night but was not effective and the decision was made to shut him down.
VanVleet, who has been one of Toronto’s steadier scorers these past few weeks, played just 12 minutes and had just two points, both from the charity stripe before his night was cut short.
Without him the Raptors were in trouble. So much so that even when Lowry, the Philly native who always seems to play well here, picked up his fourth foul midway through the third quarter, Nurse had no alternative but to leave him in and hope he didn’t pick up his fifth too quickly.
The good news is the Raptors won’t have long to grumble about this one with a game in Chicago on Monday night. It’s the first of three back-to-backs this month.
It’s certainly not time to panic yet, but the concern level, particularly if VanVleet has to miss any extended time is climbing.
“I think we’ve just got to make sure we keep going at it professionally each night,” Nurse said of the Raptors’ approach to the current funk. “I think I would say we’ve played extremely good basketball, we’ve had a couple of tough ones here in a row against some good teams. And we’ve just got to keep plugging away at the schedule and get guys back in rhythm a little bit … and get ourselves back to a high level team at both ends.