Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Preview: Toronto Raptors (6-6) at Philadelphia Sixers (8-4)

Despite a litany of Philadelphia 76ers players sidelined for various reasons, opportunities are arising for some of the squad’s younger members.

And they are taking full advantage heading into a matchup with the Toronto Raptors on Thursday.

Even though the Sixers took their second loss in a row Tuesday, falling 118-109 to the Milwaukee Bucks, several Philadelphia players shined. Tyrese Maxey scored 31 points, and Paul Reed added six points and six rebounds to go along with some suffocating defense on Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“I think confidence, leadership, voice, being more vocal,” Maxey said of his areas of improvement. “I think at the beginning of the year I was, I don’t want to say scared, but I was timid to speak my mind or say my mind. Or try to lead with my voice. I think now I’ve become a little more comfortable with it. And just trying to do my part to help us win.”

The Sixers continue to be without Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Matisse Thybulle and Isaiah Joe for health and safety protocols, and Ben Simmons remains absent for personal reasons. Seth Curry (foot) missed Tuesday’s game, and it was unclear if he would be back to face the Raptors.

Despite the absences, Philadelphia battled the defending champion Bucks to the final buzzer.

“I think everyone is here to win,” 76ers forward Georges Niang said. “We are short-handed and we know that, but that doesn’t mean we don’t think we are capable of winning. Obviously it’s frustrating, but it’s a long season and you’ve got to take these bumps and bruises. Other teams are going to go through it, too. You can’t feel bad for yourself; you’ve got to go out there and compete.”

The Raptors will hope to avoid a fourth straight loss when they face the Sixers.

Toronto fell 104-88 on the road against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

Scottie Barnes led the Raptors with 21 points while Fred VanVleet added 16. Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby had 14 apiece, but it wasn’t nearly enough to end the losing streak.

Pascal Siakam had eight points and seven rebounds in just his second game back from an injured shoulder. Siakam had surgery in the offseason.

“I feel blessed and I think that again, it’s easy to just go day by day and forget about all the blessings, and I definitely feel blessed and to be in this position and to be back on the court,” Siakam said. “I’m super happy.”

Still, coach Nick Nurse said after the game that Siakam likely will rest on the second leg of a back-to-back.

The Raptors, meanwhile, don’t have time to dwell on the 16-point loss to the Celtics. Another difficult matchup looms despite the Sixers’ thin roster.

“It’s funny, I was just talking to Bobby Webster, our GM, on the way over and I said, ‘Man, the league is competitive this year,'” Nurse said. “Just watching games on a night-to-night basis, teams are really playing hard, and I think there is a lot going on. He kind of started a conversation about the East. I won’t repeat it exactly, but this will give you a sense. He started going through the teams, listed a whole bunch of them, and he forgot like four.

“That’s kind of what you do: Brooklyn and Milwaukee, and then you forget four teams that are pretty good. It’s really deep, super competitive. The games each night are really good.”

Ty Gaston

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