Five thoughts on the Toronto Raptors coming back from 22 down to beat the 76ers in Philly—a game I gave up on in the third, only to get sucked back in in the fourth. Delon Wright for MVP.
Five thoughts on another easy Raptors win:
- The bench was great again, but the starters showed up a little better after starting slowly on opening night. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan looked like themselves again, combining for 47 points on 24 shots and 18 free throws. Serge Ibaka dropped in 21, and Jonas Valanciunas was off to another decent start before spraining an ankle and missing the second half.
- Jacob Poetl continues to impress as the backup to Jonas, and Lucas Noguiera had a stellar season debut in relief as well. Poetl’s got excellent hands, catching tough passes and snagging loose balls, and I love how quickly he gets the ball up on the rim. As for Bebe, the lead was already double digits by the time he came in, and the Sixers were on the second night of a back-to-back, so I won’t get too ahead of myself. But he brought tons of energy and managed to play under control, ending up with 10 points and nine rebounds in 15 minutes.
- The Raptors shot 44 three-pointers. 44! Sure, they only hit 13 (Ibaka had five of them), but the way those shots opened up the floor for DeMar to get into the paint was critical for his big night. Much was made of the Raptors new-look offense and how DeMar would fit in, since the three-point shot isn’t his forte. If it turns out that everyone else jacking threes gives him and the bigs more room to operate, then I think that’s fine; important to note, though, that better, more veteran defensive teams won’t scramble as much on those threes as the Sixers do. The Raps will need to shoot closer to 40% to keep teams honest.
- The only starter not to show up tonight was Norman Powell, and that was disappointing. He picked up a few dumb fouls, never got into a rhythm, and only ended up with two points in 17 minutes. I’m really looking for Norm to bring consistency night-to-night this year, something the Raps have lacked in the small forward spot for years.
- The Sixers have tons of great young pieces, but they’ve still got some ways to go, especially on defense. And I know they were missing their best player in Joel Embiid, and playing their third game in four nights. But, the Raptors got a lot of open looks and had a lot of drives with the defenders back-pedaling, which led to a lot of free throws. Young teams usually struggle at the defensive end so that’s not a surprise; but many pre-season predictions had the Sixers taking a big leap this year, and I think that was overlooked. Another thing overlooked: These guys have never played together! Embiid has only played 30 games; Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are rookies; J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson are new to the team. Every time a “superteam” comes together, we say, “hey, these guys will need time to gel;” well, I’d say that’s even more true of a young team like this. This team has a ton of potential, but, I think a little patience is warranted.
The Raps now head out on an incredibly tough six-game road trip. Glad they got these two early wins!