Sixers observations

3 observations after Sixers set franchise three-point record in Maxey-less win

The Sixers drained 24 three-pointers Sunday night in Toronto.

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The Sixers prolonged the Raptors' losing streak, snapped their own, and enjoyed an outstanding shooting night Sunday in Toronto.

They picked up a 135-120 victory over the Raptors and got season-high scoring performances from Kelly Oubre Jr. (32 points), Cameron Payne (24 points) and Nicolas Batum (19).

The Sixers made 24 three-pointers on 43 attempts, setting a new franchise record and ending a three-game skid.

Joel Embiid (left knee meniscus procedure), Tyrese Maxey (left hip tightness), De’Anthony Melton (lumbar spine bone stress) and Robert Covington (left knee bone bruise) all sat.

Maxey had made 10 consecutive appearances after returning from a concussion. He’d gone at least 43 minutes in three of the Sixers’ last four games, including the team’s loss Friday to the Cavs.

As for Embiid, Sixers head coach Nick Nurse told reporters in Toronto, “We’re in the ramp-up period and hopefully we’ll keep ticking that way.”

Among the key players out for the 23-51 Raptors were Scottie Barnes, RJ Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and Jakob Poeltl. Sunday's loss was Toronto's 13th in a row. 

The 40-35, eighth-seeded Sixers have seven regular-season games to go. They’ll play the Thunder in Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

Here are observations on their win over the Raptors:

Star-less offense runs smoothly 

The Sixers’ offense was especially sharp in the opening minutes, albeit against an opponent that suffered a 44-point loss to the Knicks last time out.

Three-pointers from Payne and Kyle Lowry contributed to a 10-2 Sixers lead. Oubre also made back-to-back triples in the first quarter, hitting his first long-range shots since the Sixers’ win last Sunday over the Clippers.

Buddy Hield drained a three on his first touch, too. Raptors legend Lowry expertly ran the show and the Sixers often found a solid middle ground between attacking early in the shot clock and letting multi-option sets develop. 

To the Sixers’ credit, they routinely passed up contested looks around the paint in favor of wide-open threes. Even without Maxey, the Sixers’ drive-and-kick instincts tended to serve them well and they burned the Raptors beyond the arc. Oubre’s deep jumper beat the second-quarter buzzer to give the Sixers a 71-55 advantage. 

Oubre not the only hot hand  

Former Raptor Jeff Dowtin Jr. received first-quarter minutes next to Lowry and didn’t have his finest stint.

Playing the night after a G League start in Delaware, Dowtin committed two turnovers and missed a fadeaway jumper on the Sixers’ last possession of the first period.

Hield, Nicolas Batum, Paul Reed and KJ Martin were the four other bench players in Nurse’s rotation. Batum and Hield both had very efficient days; the pair combined for 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists. While Hield’s world will change dramatically once Embiid’s back, the Sixers want him shooting without hesitation in all situations. 

Oubre never struggles in that regard. He grew red-hot early in the third quarter, drilling three more three-pointers. The 28-year-old wing finished with six makes, tying his season high.

Sixers polish off relatively decisive win

Although the Sixers never trailed, maintaining focus and intensity all game is challenging against a shorthanded, inferior opponent.

Toronto was the quicker, better team late in the third quarter and the Sixers’ defensive level dropped. Tobias Harris conceded a backdoor layup to rookie Gradey Dick during a run that cut the Sixers’ lead down to six points. 

As long as they made sound decisions, the Sixers didn’t have much trouble producing run-halting buckets. Batum nailed a couple of crowd-quieting threes. Harris (21 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks) scored several 1-on-1 hoops and Payne busted an after-timeout Raptors zone.

The Sixers couldn't fully slam the door shut on Toronto until the last few minutes, but they'll take anything resembling a comfortable win.

The team's 15-point margin of victory Sunday was its most since Embiid's injury.

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