3 Observations as Thybulle-Less Sixers Fall to Siakam, Raptors

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Staff Writer

The Philadelphia 76ers dropped a tough contest to the Toronto Raptors, 119-114, at Scotiabank Arena on Thursday night.

Pascal Siakam put together a dominant performance for the Raptors, recording a triple-double and finishing with 37 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists.

Joel Embiid led the Sixers, who were without Matisse Thybulle (ineligible to play), with 30 points and 10 rebounds. Tyrese Maxey added in 22 points, four assists and two steals. The Sixers as a team shot 19-of-36 (52.8 percent) from three-point range.

The Raptors were without Fred VanVleet (right knee management), OG Anunoby (right quad contusion) and Yuta Watanabe (left quad soreness).

This game served as a potential playoff preview as these two teams have a high likelihood of facing off in the first round of the playoffs. The Sixers end their regular season with home matchups with the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. Here are three observations from the loss:

Defense struggles without Thybulle

With Thybulle, the Sixers' top perimeter defender, out of the lineup, the team was going to have to make some defensive adjustments. Danny Green filled in for Thybulle in the starting lineup and began the game with the primary defensive assignment of guarding Scottie Barnes.

The Raptors got off to a slow start offensively, knocking down just four of their first 17 shots of the game. However, their struggles were short lived. Toronto scored 30 points in the second quarter and was shooting 10-of-19 from beyond the arc at halftime. Being without Thybulle definitely hurt the Sixers' perimeter defense especially against a lengthy, athletic Toronto team.

The Sixers really had a ton of trouble defending Siakam. They tried a mixture of different players on him, but he demolished everyone. Siakam carried the Raptors' offense in the third quarter, scoring 15 points and dishing out four assists. He played a huge role in the Raptors' offense throughout the night, and the Sixers simply had no answer against him. He facilitated the Toronto offense while playing aggressively and getting to his spots around the paint. He is too physical for Tobias Harris to cover him and quick enough to present issues for Embiid defensively.

The player who took the most advantage of Thybulle's absence was Gary Trent Jr. The Sixers were forced to have Maxey attempt to cover him and it did not go well. Trent Jr. used his combination of outside shooting and ability to get to the basket to torment Maxey on his way to scoring 30 points on 12-of-21 shooting (5-of-8 from deep).

The Sixers had to dig a little bit deeper into their rotations without Thybulle. Shake Milton received significant minutes and produced well. He knocked down three of his four attempts from beyond the arc, including one off a beautiful cross-court pass from Embiid at the end of the shot clock. Furkan Korkmaz once again failed to take advantage of a potential opportunity to get back into the rotation. He committed two fouls and was a minus-five in two minutes off the bench.

The Sixers' defense struggled tonight despite Toronto being without VanVleet and Anunoby. Toronto's length and physicality will present issues for the Sixers in any potential playoff series, especially with Thybulle looking like he will miss at most three games (if the series goes to a full seven games) due to his ineligibility to play in Toronto.

Hot three-point shooting continues

The Sixers, coming fresh off the win over the Indiana Pacers in which they shot 23-of-40 (57.5 percent) from three-point range, opened up the game against the Raptors right where they left off in Indiana. Green opened the scoring for the Sixers with a corner three, unleashing the floodgates from beyond the arc.

The team went on a 15-2 run over the first 4:32 of action powered by a 5-of-5 start from beyond the arc. Maxey and Harris both drilled a pair in this run to begin the game. The offense looks completely different lately due in large part to their success from beyond the arc. The team scored 33 points while shooting 7-of-9 from three-point range in the first quarter.

James Harden did a good job spreading the ball around, especially in the first quarter. He would go on to finish with 15 assists. However, he again struggled as a scorer, scoring just 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting. He has showed he no longer has the explosiveness to consistently beat his man one-on-one, and that is limiting his scoring abilities. The Sixers will need much more from him as a scorer if they are to truly have a good chance at making a deep playoff run this season.

The starting lineup with Green looked good and fit well together. Surrounding Embiid with four shooters has proven to be very successful when the Sixers go to it, especially after the team's recent decision to be much more aggressive in terms of taking shots from beyond the arc.

Green played incredibly well against the Raptors. He played some solid defense and was excellent as a shooter, scoring 18 points on 6-of-7 shooting from three-point range. The Sixers receiving close to this level of production from Green in the playoffs would be a major positive development, especially with the lack of wing depth on the roster.

Maxey continued to be the team's hottest shooter from three-point range over the past handful of games. He drained four of his five attempts from beyond the arc, including this tough step-back three midway through the third quarter.

He has connected on 12 of his last 16 attempts from three-point range over his previous two games. The rate of improvement he has shown this season, especially when combined with his confidence level as a scorer, is huge for the Sixers. He at one point in the fourth quarter spurred a 7-0 Sixers run by hitting a tough and-one and a fadeaway shot from the elbow to help keep the team in the game. His development as a scorer has been one of the team's biggest developments this season.

Embiid's mixed performance, Reed gets backup center minutes

While the Sixers' offense continued to be red hot from three-point range, Embiid kept plugging away from inside the arc. He had his touch from around the free-throw line and was generally a tough stop for Toronto's defense.

Embiid did a good job drawing fouls and getting to the free-throw line, often to much disagreement from Raptors' head coach Nick Nurse. The Raptors threw a handful of defensive looks at Embiid, but he was able to handle all of them through the first three quarters of the game.

However, things changed in the fourth quarter. The shots stopped falling and the double teams started having more success. Embiid shot 1-of-7 from the field in the fourth quarter. He had a good game overall, but the timing of his struggles continues to be a concern for the Sixers this season.

One of the more interesting things to note was head coach Doc Rivers finally going with Paul Reed over DeAndre Jordan for the backup center minutes. He made some mistakes early on, turning the ball over once, but he eventually settled in and provided some solid production out of the backup center minutes. He brought a high level of energy and made a few hustle plays, including the play below where he gets the offensive rebound and put back while getting fouled.

Reed finished with five points and seven rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench. However, the team overall still struggled without Embiid on the floor, going a minus-13 with him on the bench. It will be interesting to see if Rivers will again use Reed as the backup center if these two teams meet up in the playoffs.

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