The Philadelphia 76ers had been rolling since their acquisition of Jimmy Butler, rattling off eight wins in 9 video games after an inauspicious debut to climb to second place within the East. However the Sixers hadn’t confronted a lot in the best way of elite competitors following the commerce till they rolled into Toronto to tackle the league-leading Raptors on Wednesday night time.

In a recreation that noticed Butler and Kawhi Leonard commerce blows, and Toronto’s facilities collectively tame Joel Embiid, the Raptors got here away with a 113-102 win, extending their six-year residence successful streak over Philadelphia to 13 video games. Listed here are 4 takeaways from the assembly of Japanese Convention elites:

Kawhi is all the best way again

Regardless that he is carried out at or above expectations to date this season and has approximated his pre-hamstring-injury type with growing regularity, there have been quite a lot of ifs and whens relating to Leonard throughout his younger Raptors tenure. He is been largely nice, often transcendent, however it’s nonetheless been virtually universally acknowledged that he hasn’t appeared fairly as sharp or as explosive as he did throughout his Spurs peak. Would he ever get again to that stage? How good might the Raptors be if and when he did?

His volcanic efficiency Wednesday night time required no such qualification. Leonard utterly owned the ground at each ends, and the how was as notable because the what. He appeared faster laterally and bouncier vertically than he had all season. On an evening during which not one of the Raptors’ guards might rating, Leonard’s jumper was pure. He completed robust on the rim and torched the Sixers within the open ground off grab-and-gos. This gear shift was particularly ridiculous.

Defensively, this was the very best recreation Leonard has performed as a Raptor – the primary time he appeared all the best way again to being the fear who received back-to-back Defensive Participant of the Yr awards. He was in every single place. One second he was swooping in to dig down within the put up, or recovering to run his examine off the arc (if he wasn’t simply stealing the kickout cross), the following he was doubling again once more and skying for a defensive rebound. His palms had been in each passing lane. He was inescapable.

On high of his 36 factors on 27 taking pictures possessions, Leonard snatched 5 steals and added six deflections for good measure. He managed to play all that lively, handsy protection with out committing a single foul.

Joe Wolfond

Raptors have one flaw on D

Toronto’s protection was usually stable towards the Sixers, limiting Embiid and Ben Simmons to a mixed 18 factors whereas creating 11 turnovers between the pair. The Raptors had been in a position to shut down the paint by sending well timed assist defenders towards Embiid, whereas Leonard rendered Simmons ineffective.

Nevertheless, with Butler and J.J. Redick totaling 63 factors, they evidently struggled with dribble handoffs. Each gamers persistently discovered area to shoot coming round Embiid’s screens, and Toronto’s plan of chasing excessive wasn’t working.

Within the play under, Fred VanVleet tries to remain connected to Redick, however he steps out far too huge to keep away from Embiid’s display, which left No. 17 with a wide-open search for three.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse waited till the fourth quarter to regulate towards the Sixers. Embiid was clearly having an off night time, so Nurse had his bigs come up greater and deny Redick in any respect prices. Beneath, Valanciunas closes out all the best way previous the 3-point arc to power the miss.

This similar weak point retains popping up anytime the Raptors face a artful two guard and a flexible middle. E’Twaun Moore scored 30 towards Toronto by working the two-man recreation with Anthony Davis, whereas Evan Fournier racked up 27 by doing the identical with Nikola Vucevic.

Toronto’s precedence will at all times be to pack the paint towards deadly bigs like Davis and Embiid, however they should discover a center floor. They cannot simply anticipate their diminutive level guards to persistently combat round screens to remove the 3-point shot towards skilled shooters.

– William Lou

Embiid may have to rediscover his jumper

Throughout his abbreviated rookie season, Embiid shot 36.7 p.c from 3-point vary – higher than league common. The amount wasn’t negligible, both; he took about 23 p.c of his subject targets from past the arc. In two seasons since, his 3-point try charge has stayed just about the identical, however his accuracy has fallen off. Final season, he shot simply 30.eight p.c from deep. This 12 months, he is all the way down to 29 p.c after a 0-for-Four displaying on Wednesday.

Embiid’s mid-range recreation has additionally dried up. He is taking pictures a career-low 39.1 p.c from that space, down from 44 p.c a season in the past. Embiid’s nonetheless one of the dominant put up scorers within the league and has been feasting on the block all season, so perhaps it is not all that necessary he now not seems just like the stretch massive he as soon as appeared destined to be. However for groups just like the Raptors, who’ve a middle that may match him in dimension and power, this can be a vital boon. Embiid could not make a lot headway within the put up towards Valanciunas (or any of the Toronto’s bigs, for that matter), and the Raptors had been content material to repeatedly sink these bigs deep into the paint and dare Embiid to beat them along with his jumper.

Just a few ill-fated pick-and-pops solely served to attract a number of defenders to the ball whereas Embiid stood uncared for on the high of the arc.

ESPN

The above possession, which ended with Butler getting stripped by VanVleet, served to focus on Philadelphia’s want for extra taking pictures. T.J. McConnell might supply extra gravity than Markelle Fultz, however VanVleet had no qualms about abandoning him to pounce on Butler some 10 ft away. Butler is among the Sixers’ few viable ground spacers, however in addition they want him to be a creator. If Embiid might return to creating defenses pay for ignoring him, it’d certain go a great distance towards opening up Philly’s halfcourt offense.

Valanciunas and Serge Ibaka wound up totally outplaying Embiid on this one. Even Greg Monroe held his personal in spot minutes. Though Embiid’s unhealthy recreation prolonged effectively past his taking pictures, he will not play this poorly each night time. However Toronto’s bigs confirmed they will bang with him down low (a minimum of, Valanciunas can), and his incapacity to drag them away from the rim made their process that a lot simpler.

Wolfond

Sixers lack depth

The primary merchandise on Sixers common supervisor Elton Model’s agenda must be to get an influence ahead, as a result of the Sixers are principally enjoying four-on-five.

Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala mixed for 9 factors in 49 minutes, and so they each didn’t put a physique on Pascal Siakam, who snagged 5 offensive rebounds. Each Chandler and Muscala are score-first gamers, however they’re additionally largely one-dimensional and change into liabilities if the surface shot is not retaining their defenders sincere.

Model also needs to look into discovering somebody who can create their very own offense off the bench. Brett Brown is as artistic as they arrive by way of staggering minutes in order that his stars can hold the bench afloat, however the second unit cannot depend on handoffs with Landry Shamet as their go-to play.

– Lou

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