By Connor Thomas
It’s officially over. One of the worst streaks in Philadelphia sports has been broken. The Sixers, who had previously lost their last 16 regular season road games against the Toronto Raptors, finally exorcised their demons last night, beating the Raptors in their temporary Tampa home. The last time the Sixers won a regular season road game against Toronto was November 10th, 2012, in a game that Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young led the team in scoring. Now, over 8 years and 2 logo changes later, the 2 teams finally reversed roles last night as the Sixers were able to outlast a late surge from the Raptors to hold on for a 7 point win. It was not the prettiest game, as Joel Embiid struggled from the floor, going 3 of 13. He did shoot 91.7% from the line, but it was the rest of the team that was tasked with shouldering the scoring load. This was the most balanced game offensively from the Sixers in a while, with all 5 starters and Shake Milton scoring in double figures. 4 of those 6 players cleared 15 points, including Furkan Korkmaz, who scored a season high 19 as he replaced an injured Seth Curry in the starting lineup. The Sixers defense was its usual strong self early on in the game, as the Raptors were held to just 18 points in the opening quarter, and 42 in the first half.
The Sixers held a 13 point lead at the break, and with Joel Embiid’s best quarter coming in the 3rd, the lead stood strong at 14 when the teams came out for the final quarter. Everything looked to be going Philly’s way through the 4th, as every Toronto push was met by an answer from Tobias Harris, or Shake Milton, or Joel Embiid. With 1:41 left in the game, the Sixers held a 17 point lead and had all but locked the game up. Then, the Raptors began to claw back. Toronto scored 6 unanswered points to cut the lead to 11 with about 58 seconds left, and that’s where a game that had been moving at a quick clip slowed almost to a halt. The last 58.7 seconds of game time took an unbelievable 17 minutes and 48 seconds of real time (per @pdevlin11) as fouls and turnovers continued to cut into the Sixers advantage. With 21 seconds remaining, the Raptors had cut the lead to 6 and made it a 2 possession game, one that felt totally different than the 17 point blowout that existed just 1 minute and 20 seconds prior. Joel Embiid went to the line shooting 2 after an intentional foul, and missed his 2nd opportunity that turned into a layup the other way for Toronto. However, luckily for the Sixers, that 5 point deficit was as close as the game would get. Tobias Harris would make his 2 free throws next time down the floor, and Philadelphia had won their first game in Toronto… er, Tampa (still counts) for the first time in nearly a decade.
It was a great game for Harris, who was snubbed from a deserved spot as an Eastern Conference All Star earlier in the day. His 23 points all seemed meaningful, with numerous clutch baskets coming down the stretch. The Raptors gave the Sixers a run thanks to 24 points from Norman Powell and 22 from Pascal Siakam, but ultimately came up short without the help of Kyle Lowry, who sat out with an injury. The Sixers improved to 21-11 on the season, while the Raptors fell back to .500 at 16-16. Philly will be back in action tomorrow night as they head back home to take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks.