The Sixers (43-26) hosted the Toronto Raptors (39-31) on Sunday night. Philadelphia wanted to extend its winning streak to three games. Toronto aimed to recover from a devastating loss to the Lakers on Friday night. The Sixers scored just 14 points in the fourth quarter to cough one up to the short-handed Raptors, 93-88.

Before we get to what I saw, some notes.

Contextual Notes

The Raptors were without the services of OG Anunoby, who is recovering from a fractured ring finger on his right hand, and Fred VanVleet, who got the night off for the sake of managing a right knee injury.

Malachi Flynn has a strained left hamstring and was out.

Justin Champagnie (Two-Way), David Johnson (Two-Way), and Isaac Bonga were on G-League assignments with the Raptors 905 and were unavailable.

Nick Nurse started Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa, and Khem Birch.

The Sixers were without Myles Powell (Two-Way) and Jaden Springer, who were on G-League assignments with the Delaware Blue Coats.

Doc Rivers started James Harden, Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid.


Matisse Thybulle back-cut Scottie Barnes so well that Barnes quite literally spun around in a circle to try to recover, and he still didn’t have any idea where Thybulle was after spinning. If nothing else, I got a nice laugh out of the 8:40 PM, Eastern time, tip-off.

Speaking of late start times, it looks like the Sixers may have found a solution to their early-game offensive woes. They scored 18 points in the first 5 minutes of the game, and led by 10 points at the first timeout. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge of that. All jokes aside, the Sixers got out to a torrid start because of ball movement. They whipped the ball around the floor, hitting each other with extra passes so that they got great shots instead of just good shots.

Sure, they could’ve taken the first shot and it probably wouldn’t be worth much of a complaint. But, a great shot is so vacant that you might as well think of it as a post-practice shooting drill open to fan attendance. In making one extra pass on most possessions, that was the quality of looks the Sixers got in the first quarter. Philly shot 15-for-25 on 10 assists in the opening frame, hitting 4 of their 8 three-point attempts en route to a 37-point quarter.

That those were the only likes of the game tells the story of the game, alone.


Did I mention I’m vehemently against 8:30 PM, Eastern time, tip-offs for Sunday home games? It would be one thing if it were for a decent cause. But because a Flyers team in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division had an early afternoon game on national television? I’m not the only Sixers beat writer who would write a check towards the Sixers getting their own arena if it means that never happens again.

Speaking of things that should never happen again, I didn’t realize that DeAndre Jordan being 33 years old meant that he was physically bound to the ground for the rest of his playing career. His role isn’t all that taxing — communicate and react appropriately to changing defensive coverages, stay vertical when he contests shots at the rim, secure defensive rebounds, and dunk home lobs. No matter how you want to slice it, you’re asking him to be a net-neutral in about 13 minutes of play per game. His plus/minus numbers aren’t nearly as bad as the eye test suggests they should be. In 5 minutes of play in the first half on Sunday, Toronto got at least 3 shots at the rim in which Jordan was left frozen, not even leaving the floor to contest. That is flat-out unacceptable effort by the backup center.

I still think he can do some things for you in the way of rebounding. But, Jordan cannot move laterally to cut off agile opponents knifing their ways to the rim. He’s also shockingly inept at catching lobs. And when he’s not botching those catches like an Eagles wideout, Jordan’s perception of space at the rim is poor. Tobias Harris had a shot wiped off the board because Jordan thought it was a lob and tried to dunk it. 

The Jordan experience is frustrating for two reasons. First, you have 5 centers on the roster. That means 3 of them are just eating up space that could’ve gone to other needs. Rather than experiment with the other 3 backup bigs, Doc Rivers is seemingly married to Jordan. Not only is it extremely stubborn, but it’s a misallocation of minutes. There’s no way that neither of Paul Reed and Charles Bassey could be any worse than Jordan. Coaches are naturally risk-averse creatures who prefer their nature. But there are ostensibly pieces on the roster that could help, and Rivers just refuses to give them a chance.

The second reason it is frustrating is that Rivers’ nature will surely lead to Jordan getting those minutes behind Embiid in the playoffs. And when it likely fails and costs the Sixers in high-leverage playoff games, only one person is going to be surprised.

The habit that will kill the Sixers come playoff time is their lack of discipline in finishing possessions with defensive rebounds. Despite improving up their first half defense, Philadelphia stood and waited for the closest teammate to corral the board instead of holding box-outs. Of course, it’s very easy for the opposition to crash the offensive glass when that happens. There were plenty of uninspiring possessions in which the Sixers stood their ground and denied Toronto good looks — whether from deep or up close — but then surrendered the offensive board to give Toronto additional possessions.

Those habits are laziness and discipline — both very bad traits to characterize a team with championship aspirations. It would be somewhat comical if the Sixers were just a bad defense with that issue. At least in that scenario, you don’t even feel bad for them because it’s all part of a bad defense. But, the Sixers got all the way to the 9th inning and then gave up walk-off homers on numerous possessions. Boxing out is pretty simple — just find the nearest guy and physically impose yourself so that he cannot get around you. Sure, there’s grabbing and shoving involved that make it a bit easier said than done. But, the physicality goes both ways. Fight back and reward yourselves for executing well for 99 percent of the possession.

Rivers went with Paul Reed and DeAndre Jordan for 3 minutes to open the fourth quarter with the Sixers leading by 5 points. That lineup — although credited to Harden, specifically — committed 2 live-ball turnovers, surrendering 4 fast break points. Harden then committed an offensive foul. So, that’s 3 Harden turnovers to open the fourth quarter. But, Paul Reed got the quick hook. Listen, Reed has his limitations. There’s no disputing that he sorely needs polish. But what’s the point of playing the guy when you’re going to play him next to a rim-running big, and then yank him when other players make mistakes? Either play him or trade him, but don’t put him in a position in which he has no wiggle room. Beyond that, it’s no wonder Harden committed 3 turnovers in rapid succession when he was playing next to Paul Reed and DeAndre Jordan. What is that spacing?

Missing shots was far from the reason that the Sixers coughed this one up to a team down 2 starters. But, you’re not going to win many games when 3 of your 4 best players combine to shoot 13-of-41 from the field. 

The Sixers (43-27) will host the Miami Heat (47-24) on Monday on the second night of a back-to-back. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, Eastern time. You can catch the action on NBC Sports Philadelphia.