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Toronto Raptors vs. Philadelphia 76ers Final Score: 120 - 135

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Toronto Raptors
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

What’s left of the roster continues to battle as a number of former Raptors made a stop in Toronto

The Toronto Raptors welcomed back some familiar faces in Nick Nurse, Cameron Payne, Jeff Dowtin Jr., and Philly’s own Kyle Lowry in the fourth and final matchup of the season. Philly was successful in sweeping the Raps this season, handing them their 13th straight loss. Despite the outcome, it was nice to catch-up with some former Raptors.

Prior to the game, Darko had high praise for Kyle specifically, noting that he’s a championship caliber player who plays an important role in the locker room for Philly. Nurse echoed this, but noted that he’s had a bit of trouble with the adjustment and hasn’t necessarily found his rhythm yet. Nurse also pointed out that Oubre Jr. has been trying to have a resurgence, and luckily for Philly, both looked pretty good in this game.

Oubre Jr. finished with 32-7-3, shooting a healthy 6-11 from distance. Kyle Lowry also looked like he was returning to form, posting 11 points and 10 assists and running a fair amount of Philly’s offense. Former Raptor Cameron Payne also had himself a game, finishing with 24 points on 6-10 from distance.

For the Raptors, Bruce Brown filled the stat sheet with 18-4-6. Kelly Olynyk continued to show his high-IQ and ability to coordinate the offense, finishing with 18-5-11. Jordan Nwora continues to show flashes, with 19 points, and Gradey, Javon, and Gary also contributed double-digit scoring.

Looking at the players the Raps had available, the outcome isn’t really a surprise, but the mood around the organization, especially from the coaching staff, seems a lot lighter than you might expect. Prior to the game, when asked about how he motivates his guys during a losing streak like this, Darko provided some perspective on the issue. He mentioned how every morning you wake up and you’re in the NBA is something to be celebrated and not taken for granted. It’s likely he carries this energy in the locker room, which is probably a part of why we’ve been seeing the effort that we have, despite 40+ point deficits.

The G-League guys in particular have been showing out. Javon Freeman-Liberty was aggressive all game, taking it to the rack with every opportunity despite his size in comparison to Philly. Being the shortest active player on the roster for the Raptors didn’t stop him from leading them in rebounds in the first half. Kobi Simmons also continues to make the most of this opportunity showing a lot of effort on both ends, picking up his man full court and drawing a charge of the defensive end. He also continues to make good offensive reads as well, not forcing any shots and trying to find his teammates rather than forcing shots.

The Raptors won the tip, but struggled early shooting, letting Philly take the lead early and build a comfortable separation in the first few minutes. With only 2 and a half minutes off the clock, a 10-2 lead for Philly forced the Raptors into a timeout. They responded well from an energy standpoint, but costly mistakes on the offensive end led to turnovers that Phill was all too ready to convert. It took Kyle Lowry 4 minutes to draw a charge and he managed to sell a foul on Kelly Olynyk shortly after.

Despite the obvious size advantage, the Raptors held their own in the first quarter, being outscored by only two points in the paint and matching the Sixers on the boards. After a run in the final couple of minutes, Toronto was able to stay within single digits to end off the first frame.

In the second quarter, the Sixers started to adjust to the game, taking advantage of the size disparity when the opportunity presented itself, but primarily taking advantage of the fact that their 3-point shots kept falling. Their lead ballooned to 18 points, and their defense started to tighten too, and they threw out a variety of looks which was a surprise to no one. At one point, with a significant double-digit lead, they decided to press full-court which led to a turnover by the Raps followed by a statement dunk by Oubre Jr.

In the final few minutes of the quarter, Gary started to find a rhythm, and after going 1-6 from the 3-point line, he cashed one in, giving him a bit of momentum. He managed an elbow shot on the next possession, before digging in defensively and stealing the ball out of the hands of the tallest player on the floor, running out and dunking it, diminishing Philly’s lead to only 10.

Every time the Raps would try to get back into the game, the Sixers responded, preventing the Raps from finding enough momentum to get close. Headed into the locker room, Philly already built their lead back to 16.

In the second half, the pattern continued, unfortunately for the Raps. They’d string together a number of good plays, only to turn the ball over, or Philly to drop consecutive 3s. Bruce Brown had some highlight moments early in the game, but continued to string together one of his better performances of the season. Jordan Nwora also came alive, draining a pair of long range shots in the third quarter.

The closest Toronto got was a 7-point deficit, to the credit of a hustle play by Javon and a big block by Mo G breathed even more life into the game. The crowd started to get into the game a bit more too,and headed into the final frame, the Sixers lead was only 8 points.

To start the fourth quarter, the back and forth continued. Toronto would chip away, and Philly would answer with a statement 3-pointer. The Raps kept trying to find opportunities for their teammates though, moving the ball well and finding each other with some great looks.

They were never really out of the game, as they continued to be aggressive and move the ball effectively. It’s nice to see they didn’t give up the fight, but Philly was able to sustain their lead throughout the game, taking care of business and leaving Toronto with their 40th win of the season.

Post game Darko noted the better decision making and effort being demonstrated by everyone, especially Gradey Dick.

Gradey mentioned that he’s “doing everything he can to make the right read and find open guys”. He continues to defy the idea that he’s just a shooter, and all these reps have been transformative for his game when compared to the start of the season. His cutting, shooting, and playmaking all continue to develop and his ceiling looks higher by the day.

The Raptors now will enter a gauntlet of challenging games, hosting the Lakers on Tuesday at 7:00 pm.

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