The first time the Philadelphia 76ers played the Toronto Raptors this season, they didn’t have Jimmy Butler. The All-Star guard was acquired by the team in November from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Butler was with the Sixers on Wednesday night for their second matchup of the season series against the Raptors, but the end result was still the same.
The Sixers lost 113-102 on the road to the team with the best record in the Eastern Conference, moving their winless streak in Toronto to 13. Though Butler had a season-high 38 points and JJ Redick added 25, the Sixers didn’t keep possession of the ball well, among other things in what was their second loss in 10 games.
Here’s a look at a few main reasons for the loss Wednesday night.
Sixers committed 21 turnovers
When the Sixers lost on the road to Toronto during the end of October, they committed 23 turnovers. That was the most they had committed in a game to that point.
On Wednesday, the Sixers’ ball control woes against the Raptors persisted. They totaled 21 turnovers, with 11 of them coming during the second quarter.
That quarter also marked the Sixers’ lowest scoring quarter of the game. Philly totaled just 20 points, and Toronto benefited from the Sixers’ lack of energy and aggressiveness on offense.
The Sixers haven’t kept control of the ball well all season, as they ranked No. 26 in the league in turnovers per game (15.9) before Wednesday night. With the Sixers down 2-0 in the season series against the Raptors, they’ll have to figure out how to maintain possession of the ball better against them moving forward.
Toronto is one of three teams this season that’s forced 20 or more turnovers against the Sixers; the other two are the Brooklyn Nets and Memphis Grizzlies.
Joel Embiid’s rough game
Joel Embiid is an early MVP candidate, and rightfully so. He came into Wednesday averaging 27 points per game with 13 games in which he’s totaled at least 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Embiid didn’t have a good showing against the Raptors, tying a season-low with 10 points. Throughout the game, Embiid was taken out of the post and roamed the perimeter. He usually dominates inside, although he did have five shots in or near the paint during the second quarter.
But for the entire rest of the game, Embiid totaled just five shot attempts in the paint. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts, and this game marked the ninth time he’s made zero 3-pointers in a game when attempting at least one.
Though Embiid is playing at the highest level of his career to date, he is also playing the most minutes. He’s averaging a career-high 34.3 minutes per game, and he’s played in all 26 games this season.
With the season a quarter of the way through, perhaps the Sixers should look to get Embiid some rest in an upcoming game. Following the matchup with the Raptors, Embiid has averaged 13.7 points over the past three games; he played almost 38 minutes in this one as well.
Kawhi Leonard went off
Kawhi Leonard’s talents are in Toronto now, and because of that, the Raptors (21-5) have the best record in the league.
The Sixers did not do well defending Leonard, who has arguably regained his spot as a top-five player in the league. He poured in 36 points and made a season-high five 3-pointers.
Philly simply gave Leonard too much space, allowing him to get whatever shot he wanted. This wasn’t the first time Philly had a tough go against Kawhi, as he totaled 31 points against them back in October.
Leonard has scored at least 30 points against five teams this season, with Philly being one of them. He’s done it twice against the Boston Celtics and Sixers, with the other times came against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors.
The next time the Sixers play the Raptors comes on December 22 at home. When that rolls around, they’ll need to hone in on Leonard more and contain him defensively.