Jan 24, 2014, 9:46 PM EDT
Whatever positive momentum the Philadelphia 76ers carried over from their win in New York on Wednesday fizzled by the second half of tonight’s home game against the Atlantic-leading Toronto Raptors, whose backcourt of All-Star hopefuls basically beat the Sixers on their lonesome tonight. The Sixers played the Raptors tough for two-and-a-half quarters, but the offense dried up at the end of the third, and the Ballers never rediscovered any kind of groove, eventually losing 104-95.
If you looked at some of the player out there tonight for both teams, it’d actually be pretty hard to guess which team was the class of the division and which was bottoming out for next year. You’d probably have to go with the Sixers’ miserable second unit of Elliot Williams, Hollis Thompson, Lavoy Allen, Dewayne Dedmon and whichever of ET and MCW drew the short straw that quarter, but the Raps were running a lineup in crunchtime that included John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, which doesn’t exactly scream RAISE THE BANNER either.
Really, the Fighting Drakes won this one because their two perimeter playmakers badly outplayed our two perimeter playmakers. Michael Carter-Williams ended with a decent enough 20 points (6-15 shooting), five dimes and three boards, but he was no match for Raptors point (and ‘Nova alum) Kyle Lowry, who notched his first triple-double of the season with an 18-10-13 night that also included zero turnovers until late in the second half. And Evan Turner was not to match his career-high 34 tonight, instead settling for 13 on 5-17 shooting in an imminently predictable regression game, while his TOR counterpart DeMar DeRozan lit the Sixers up for 34 points (including 16 free throw attempts, as many as the entire Philly team) and nine rebounds. If either Sixer guard deserved All-Star consideration over either of the Toronto guys, tonight was not particularly good evidence in their support.
In fact, Evan Turner was left on the bench for the final stretch of the fourth quarter, though the game was within single digits for a good deal of that run. This is a couple times now lately that Coach Brown has had Evan ride the pine late in a winnable game, which he certainly had justification for tonight, but you have to imagine self-proclaimed One of the Best Perimeters in the Game Evan Turner is none too happy with the repeated call. Interesting to see if this spills over a little, or if it portends a future split between ET and the coach or team in general.
Anyway, as underwhelming as the game’s final result was, it was not without its moments. Most notably, Thaddeus Young punctuated an otherwise unremarkable individual performance (16 points on 16 shots, seven boards) with two early-game highlights. First, he went end-to-end on a layup, getting past Raps defender Amir Johnson with a nifty behind-the-back move that showed how much improved he is as a ball-handler. (Time was, not all that long ago, when you’d hold your breath whenever Thad decided to dribble the ball past half-court). Then, he did this to Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas:
By my estimation, Thad’s posterization of the Lithuanian big man–young Thaddeus’ first *successful* posterization attempt in I can’t even remember how long–rates as the Sixers’ third-best dunk of the year, behind Tony Wroten taking out Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Elliot Williams throwing down on Mason Plumlee. (Points lost for the latter coming in garbage time, but gained back by Williams injuring himself in the process.) Not bad for a night’s work for Thad, though as with his backcourt mates, any legitimate chance he has of All-Star contention is probably slipping away at this point.
Anyway, the Sixers lace up at the WFC again tomorrow night for a meeting with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are already down All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook and may or may not be playing Monstar forward Kevin Durant, who sat out against the Celtics tonight with back soreness. Selfishly, I hope he plays, since I’ll be at the game, and if the Sixers are gonna lose, I don’t want it to be to Reggie Jackson and Perry Jones III. There might be no shame in getting beaten by the best, but there’s probably a little shame in getting beaten by the best’s third-string subs.
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