TORONTO – The 76ers are three games into one of their most anticipated seasons. But, so far, the only differences from the previous campaigns are a few new faces.
The Sixers still turn the ball over at a high rate, shoot a bunch of three-pointers, struggle to defend, and have an injured first-round pick. And like last season, their franchise player hasn’t been cleared to participate on back-to-back nights.
So as much as things have changed, they basically remained the same. With that, it wasn’t surprising that they fell, 128-94, to the Toronto Raptors Saturday night at Air Canada Centre.
The Raptors (2-0) have won 16 of the teams last 17 meetings – including 10 straight in Toronto.
The loss marked the 11th consecutive defeat for the Sixers (0-3), dating back to last season. They’ll get a chance to snap that skid on Monday against the Pistons at brand new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
“We got a lot of work to do,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “We look forward to getting Joel [Embiid] back into this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”
Embiid is scheduled to be back with the team Monday night. He didn’t make the trip to Canada because he wasn’t going to play any way after playing Friday night at home against the Celtics.
But it might not have mattered if he played Saturday. The Raptors had a 31-point lead late in the third quarter.
“I think the way we started the game stings a little bit,” Brown said. “I think the start of the third period where [Serge] Ibaka, I think, had eight straight points and [their lead] went from 13 to 21.
“Those periods of the game stick out the most.”
Ibaka actually scored eight of the Raptors’ first 10 points of the quarter. He went 4-for-4 from the field — including hitting three three-pointers — to score 11 of his 21 points in the period. The power forward, who made 5 of 9 three-pointers in the game, sat out the fourth quarter.
The Sixers’ defense was non-existent, as the Raptors kept blowing by any Sixer attempting to guard them. The Sixers committed a season-high 20 turnovers. And Markelle Fultz had another horrid foul shooting display because of a sore right shoulder.
The first overall pick in June’s NBA draft made 4 of 8 free throws. One of his attempts clanked to the left of the rim. He also shot 1-for-5 from the field en route to finishing with six points.
He joins fellow first-rounders Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams as prominent players to have injuries the same season they were drafted into the NBA.
On the bright side, Simmons, who missed last season with a fractured foot, extended his team record of double-doubles to start a career to three. He also becomes the sixth NBA player to start a career with three double-doubles.
The point guard had a team-high 18 points and game highs of 10 rebounds, and eight assists. Jerryd Bayless added 16 points on 5-for-7 shooting.
With Embiid out, the Sixers played Okafor for the first time this season. He finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and two blocks in 22:09 off the bench.
The third overall pick in the 2015 draft is playing at 258 pounds after shedding 20 pounds on a vegan diet. The weight loss has enabled him to be more mobile and to keep up with the team’s up-tempo style. Okafor has also incorporated a three-pointer into his game and improved his defense.
Yet, he’s basically an afterthought that the team has been looking to trade for over a year.
“I’m trying to deal with it,” Okafor said of not playing. “I’m trying to realize that this is not going to be my situation for the rest of my career. I have to make sure whatever happens, I’m still working out hard, making sure I’m ready and prepare for it the best that I can.
“So my main mind-set is I know this is not where I’m going to be the rest of my career.”
However, he was a bit too aggressive on the defensive end when he got into the game, picking up three fouls in his first 2:49 of action.
Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 30 points. Point guard Kyle Lowry, a North Philly native and Villanova product, added 17 points.
The Delaware 87ers selected former California State Northridge guard Darin Johnson with the 12th pick in Saturday’s NBA G-League draft.
With their second-round pick, 38th overall, the Sevens selected former Arizona State standout Tyshawn Abbott. Then they acquired former Southern New Hampshire star Devin Gilligan (61st overall) and former Creighton standout Isaiah Zierden (64th) in the third round.