The Raptors have played more than a few bad quarters over the course of a season that has been consistently inconsistent.
None have been worse than the second quarter in Philly on Friday night.
Against the backdrop of coach Nick Nurse admitting that he will take some time this summer to think about his future with the organization, the Raptors were wiped out by the Philadelphia 76ers in 12 truly gruesome minutes of action.
The Sixers took 21 shots in the second quarter and hit 18 of them, a truly amazing efficiency of 85.7 percent.
The Sixers scored 46 points, the most in a quarter by a Raptors opponent this season, and built a 77-57 halftime lead, another season high for a Toronto rival.
It was ugly and expensive for the Raptors, who otherwise had some solid moments in what turned out to be a 117-110 loss that dropped Toronto under .500 on the season. With a solid stretch of play in the second half, they got within four points with less than four minutes to go, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Scottie Barnes had 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists to lead the Raptors, while Joel Embiid had 25 and James Harden 23 for the Sixers.
The Raptors’ starting five all posted double-digit figures, but the damage done in the horrible second quarter was too much.
The game kicked off a pivotal five-game road trip for the Raptors, who will play twice in Charlotte and twice in Boston before returning home to finish the season a week later on Sunday.
They are chasing Atlanta and Miami for seventh, eighth and ninth places in the Eastern Conference heading into the play-in tournament leading up to the playoffs.
Chicago beat Charlotte on Friday to move within a game of the 10th-place Raptors, but Toronto has the tiebreaker advantage over the Bulls.
And just to add another layer to the final week of the regular season, Nurse said before the game that his future with the team is far from secure.
“I’ll take a few weeks to see where I am,” Nurse said, a day after the Star reported that he was linked to a possible move to the Houston Rockets.
Other than that, and Nurse was sure to emphasize that their focus is the playoff race (“my headspace is to make this as long a season as possible”), the Raptors showed glimpses of the inconsistency that has plagued them for most of the season.
As they have in the past, they found a way to limit the effectiveness of Philadelphia’s Embiid with a variety of defensive aspects. The bizarre double team, which forced Embiid further from the basket, where he is less comfortable, and a swarming group, when he put the ball down, limited him to just nine second-half points and a shooting night of 7 of 13. .
Embiid, co-seeded with Denver’s Nikola Jokic for this season’s most valuable player, entered the game as the NBA’s leading scorer, averaging 33.2 points per game. He has broadened his offensive repertoire to become a more effective midrange scorer.
“I think the confidence that he has in his perimeter shot, and even his 3-ball shot and stuff, makes it even more of a challenge because the posts (the first posts, the play requires posts) and then the swinging as well. it’s hard to handle,” Nurse said before the game.
The shifting defenses surely didn’t come as a surprise to Embiid or the Sixers. It’s what the Raptors have done for years against him.
“We threw a lot of different things at them, and they had a chance to look at it and adjust to it,” Nurse said. “So obviously that makes it more difficult: familiarity. However, I think it’s always more or less the same, from our perspective. It’s a lot of different matchups in it.”
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