76ers vs. Raptors: Doc Rivers explains Sixers success on Friday

The 2022-23 NBA season is young, but the Philadelphia 76ers hit significant lows early on. Considering the Sixers entered the new year as Eastern Conference favorites in the eyes of many after making impressive changes in the offseason, their first five games left many wondering just how much of a threat they really posed. in a stacked Eastern Conference.

With losses to the Celtics, Bucks and Spurs, the Sixers entered the second week of the year 0-3. After picking up a win over the Pacers, the 76ers hit the road for a four-game road trip, starting with two games in Toronto.

Philly failed to find success in Toronto on Wednesday night. As the Raptors entered the game more motivated than ever to return to the Sixers after Philly ended Toronto’s playoffs last year, Sixers head coach Doc Rivers felt the opponent had a lot more energy than his team on Wednesday.

“We knocked them out in the playoffs, didn’t we? There was no doubt they were going to come out with more tonight,” Rivers said after Wednesday’s game. “We haven’t met him. It’s disappointing.

While Rivers was disappointed his team fell to 1-4 with Wednesday’s loss, he hoped another poor Sixers performance would motivate his side to bring more fire in the rematch, which took place on Friday. evening.

“Now we’ll be the only one,” Rivers said. “We lost… they kicked our ass and they were more physical. So we’ll see how we get out of it.

The Sixers were at a disadvantage on paper Friday night. In the hours leading up to the game, 76ers center Joel Embiid was added to the injury report with a right knee injury. Prior to the game, Rivers mentioned that Embiid’s knee was sore and it was a game-time decision. Shortly after, the Sixers ruled the big man out for the night.

Without Embiid, the Sixers went small against the Raptors and moved PJ Tucker to fifth. They promoted reserve guard De’Anthony Melton to the starting five of the night to play alongside Tucker, Tobias Harris, Tyrese Maxey and James Harden.

The Sixers found success early on moving the ball with ease and creating open shots from beyond the arc. Tyrese Maxey, who shot five from the field, was perfect in the first quarter of action scoring 14 of Philadelphia’s 28 points.

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Riding the hot hand, the Sixers continued to create opportunities for Maxey, and the young guard delivered. With five more shots from the field, Maxey finished the first half a perfect 10-10 from the field with 27 points.

After a solid first half, which featured 52% shooting from deep, the Sixers struggled to keep their offensive success out of the gate in the third quarter. With Maxey cooling for nine minutes, the Sixers went just 6-20 from the field and hit one of ten threes.

Although the Sixers were outplayed by the Raptors in the third quarter, they never lost their lead. Once again, Maxey caught fire and was nearly perfect on the field in the fourth quarter. While scoring 13 more points, Maxey surpassed his previous career high of 39 points by producing 44 points on Friday.

“Obviously Maxey was the player of the game,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “[He was] the star of the game with his rebounds, his goals and his aggression.

Maxey will get his credit for Philly’s 112-90 victory over the Raptors, deservedly so, but Rivers felt everyone had a hand in the victory whether it showed in the stats or not.

“I thought it was just a really good team win,” Rivers said. “Like, every guy came in and contributed.”

Before the game reached garbage hour, the Sixers expanded their rotation for the night and used ten players. Matisse Thybulle and Shake Milton, who have already struggled to find ground as they were dropped from the rotation to start the year, got notable playing time on Friday and earned praise from Rivers. Of course, the usual suspects also got their credit.

“James (Harden) had 11 points, and basically what he did was drag the whole team with him and pass the ball, letting our guys attack,” Rivers explained. “It’s difficult to do the whole game, and he did it. Tobias (Harris) struggled to make shots. We put it back in place, and it hits twice. Matisse (Thybulle) comes in, and on the first play he stands with the ball completely frozen, then the next two times he takes a shot. Shake (Milton) takes a shot. I thought the other guy De’Anthony (Melton) was amazing and his numbers won’t show that because he got all the deflections and he put his fingers on the ball. We put it on (Pascal) Siakam, which is unconventional as can be. We have done a lot of good things. It’s a great team victory. »

With Friday night’s win over the Raptors, the 76ers tie the regular-season series at 1-1 and improve their overall record to 2-4. Although they still have a long way to go, the Sixers are certainly feeling optimistic about the future, as they looked much better in the shorthanded win on the road.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for All76ers, a Sports Illustrated channel. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.

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