Reminder: The Raptors delivered a strong performance on the road against a tough division rival to ease tensions over their recent slip-ups. Toronto pieced together one of their best quarters of the season to start the game, and maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the way in a hard-fought and frustrating contest.
Revival: Kyle Lowry always steps up in his hometown of Philadelphia, and this game was no different. Lowry set the tone early by attacking the basket early on for two layups, and maintained that aggression throughout the night en route to 20 points. Lowry’s gravity moving downhill created open opportunities for his bigs, and his confidence in shooting the three kept the Sixers’ defense honest. Most of the Raptors’ issues would be solved in Lowry played at this level on a nightly basis.
Prepared: The Sixers made the decision from the outset to double Kawhi Leonard at every opportunity, but the Raptors were prepared. Leonard was diligent in making the extra pass, which either directly translated to assists or eventually turned into swing sequences where the ball was rotated to the open weakside shooter.
Adjustment: Leonard had a rough night shooting the ball, but he was able to get to the line for 17 free-throw attempts by coming around hand-offs and getting penetration to the rim. Philadelphia tried to collapse around him, but Leonard was able to take the contact and force the whistle.
Clamped: The Raptors rarely stick Leonard on the opposing team’s main creator, but he always seems to dominate his matchup with Ben Simmons, who finished with six turnovers. Not only can Leonard impose his will physically against Simmons, but he can also afford to help off Simmons since he’s a non-shooter.
Hustle: Serge Ibaka continued his excellent season with 20 points and 10 rebounds despite battling foul trouble. Ibaka’s ability to drain the midrange jumper is absolutely vital to the Raptors’ pick-and-roll game, and he has also stepped it up of late on the glass as he has secured a double-double in seven-straight games.
Support: Ibaka, however, picked up his fourth and fifth fouls in quick succession early in the second quarter which necessitated a long run from Greg Monroe. The Sixers mounted a small comeback in the initial moments while Ibaka was out, but Monroe eventually settled into the game, and leaned into the physical nature of the game as he crashed the glass for key putbacks that kept the Sixers at bay. All in all, this was one of Monroe’s best showings of the season.
Boost: Norman Powell continues to thrive off the bench, so much so that he even earned some crunch time minutes ahead of Danny Green. Powell was a force in transition, and was able to consistently beat his man in isolation at the top of the floor before finishing at the rim. Powell finished with an efficient 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 16 minutes.
Energy: Delon Wright and OG Anunoby both chipped in off the bench with their all-around activity, especially in the first half. Wright attacked the basket with purpose and sprayed gorgeous cross-court passes, while Anunoby chipped in on the glass and created chances off the bounce.
Unwatchable: It was a hard-fought and entertaining contest on the whole, except for the fact that the officials lost control over the game. A total of 49 fouls were called and 73 free throws were attempted, which is simply ridiculous. Nobody wants to watch that.