Ben Simmons, All-Star Leads Series Split with Raptors
Tampa Florida: Ben Simmons lead the Sixers to a 1-1 road trip against the Raptors. Fresh off an All-Star reserve selection Tuesday evening, Simmons was crucial to stave off the relentless Toronto team who is playing this season in Tampa Florida due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After dropping game 1 Sunday, 110-103, the 76ers won 109-102 for their first road win versus Toronto since 2012.
The Toronto Raptors saw Joel Embiid drop 50 points on the Chicago Bulls and knew that they had to try something new. In a surprising move, The Raptors, who are playing this NBA season in Tampa Florida, tried to go to an ultra-small ball line-up against the 76ers.
6'9", 230 pound Pascal Siakam was listed as the starting Center on Sunday and Tuesday night. But O.G. Anunoby took the opening tip-off versus Embiid. Conventional wisdom would say that Embiid would feast against the very undersized Raptors.
But it was Ben Simmons, not Embiid, who made the Raptors pay for their decision to forego a big man down low. With the rim unprotected, Ben Simmons attacked the rim early and often Sunday, going 6/8 from the field in the first half. The 6'10 swiss army knife lead the 76ers out to a 24-9 lead before the Raptors got things under control, by putting Aaron Baynes in the game. At one point in the first quarter, Philadelphia was outrebounding the Raptors by a margin of 15-3.
The second half saw the 76ers pull back out to a 13 point lead early in the third quarter as the team began to heat up from three. The Raptors' smaller lineup was effectively running the 76ers off the line in the first half, but as the game wore on, the Sixers found their rhythm.
Philadelphia shot 6/9 from three in the third quarter and weathered a late Raptors run to carry an 84-83 lead into the final period.
The fourth quarter became the Chris Bouche show, which derailed an excellent evening by Simmons. Bouche, the 28-year-old, fourth-year pro, launched slingshot three after slingshot three to launch the Raptors to a lead that grew as large as 8 points in the fourth quarter.
The Raptors also managed to stabilize the ship on the glass, equalling the 76ers on the board after that initial 15-3 deficit. Joel Embiid had a very poor shooting night when guarded by Baynes. Ultimately, the 76ers took multiple double-digit leads only to fall 110-103 to the smaller, but swarming Raptors.
On Tuesday, The Game followed a similar script with the smaller Raptors falling behind early by as many as 21 points before crawling back in the second quarter. The 76ers lead 55-42 heading into the half Tuesday, driven by a 16 point first quarter from Furkan Korkmaz.
Korkmaz appeared to have fallen out of the Sixers rotation Sunday, as Isaiah Joe took the lion's share of his minutes. On Tuesday, however, as Seth Curry was a late scratch, Korkmaz started and responded by going 4-6 from three in the first quarter. Korkmaz finished with 19 points on the night in the win.
After a fourth-quarter that seemed to last an eternity, Ben Simmons talked about how he's settling into Doc Rivers' offense.
The 76ers are now 21-11 and hold a half-game lead on the surging Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the east.