PHILADELPHIA — Joel Embiid had 29 points, 16 rebounds and one scare when he briefly left the game with an injury, leading the Philadelphia 76ers past the winless Toronto Raptors 100-93 on Tuesday night.
Embiid had all of Philadelphia holding its breath when the big man left with some sort of leg injury. He went down early in the third quarter and grabbed the back of his lower right leg as he stood up. Embiid, who missed Sunday’s loss against Cleveland with back stiffness, walked gingerly to the locker room. Team President Daryl Morey and general manager Elton Brand hopped up from their courtside seats and immediately hit the locker room to check on their All-Star centre.
Embiid returned a few minutes later and checked back in the game with the Sixers down 11. He sank 14 of 16 free throws — as many makes as Toronto shot (12 of 14) to keep the Sixers in this one.
Tobias Harris had 26 points and 11 rebounds to help Embiid on a night the Sixers shot only 38% from the floor.
Kyle Lowry scored 24 points for the Raptors. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby each had 20.
Lowry, the Philly native and former Villanova standout, had said the Raptors “gotta figure this out” after an 0-2 start, and a 14-point lead in the second half should have been enough to solve their early woes.
Instead, they lost the lead in one of the weirdest ways possible. Aron Baynes appeared to hit a pump-fake 3 with the shot clock about to expire for a 90-87 lead. Embiid missed a free throw when officials stopped the game and ruled the shot clock had, in fact, expired and Baynes’ points were wiped off the board. Embiid made a second free throw and the Sixers suddenly led by one.
Seth Curry swished a 3 from the top of the arc that pushed the 76ers’ lead to 96-91 and helped them move to 3-1.
Ben Simmons, who had 11 points and 13 rebounds, joked before the restart last season that he hoped boos would get piped into the bubble if the Sixers played poorly to truly reflect the Philly atmosphere.
Simmons and the Sixers would have been booed off the court had fans been allowed to watch a disaster of the first half. Simmons and Embiid were awful from the floor, a combined 2 of 11 start that let Toronto grab an 11-point lead. Embiid had made all nine free throws to at least keep Philly competitive.
The Sixers are loaded with one-dimensional players who struggle to get their own bucket. In year three, Simmons continues to infuriate the faithful with his massive talent overshadowed by his desire to shoot beyond 15 feet. Simmons has been floated in trade rumours — Morey has said Simmons is off the table — but another dominant shooter would surely help the 76ers.
Raptors: Coach Nick Nurse said the hardest part of adjusting to life in Tampa, Florida, is finding “where the snacks are” inside the arena. But so far, so good for the Toronto-turned-Tampa Raptors. “There’s a lot of bright side,” Nurse said. “Everybody loves the weather. That seems to put a smile on everyone’s faces around the organization.” … C Chris Boucher scored 22 points, had 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots Saturday against San Antonio. He played 5 minutes against the Sixers.
76ers: Embiid has had at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of the first three games. He also did it in 2018 and before him no 76er had accomplished that mild milestone since Charles Barkley in 1986.
Raptors: Host the Knicks on Thursday.
76ers: Play Thursday at Orlando.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press