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November 12, 2015

Raptors 119, Sixers 103: Okafor shines, but defense rests without Noel

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Just like Monday night, the Philadelphia 76ers’ already depleted lineup was missing Nerlens Noel against the Toronto Raptors. Just like Monday night, they didn’t really have a chance of staying competitive. The young Sixers battled hard, moved the ball, shot it well, and only went into halftime with a six-point deficit. Out of the locker room after the break, it was all Toronto. The Raptors ended up winning, 119-103

Jahlil Okafor led the Sixers with 26 points, 7 boards, and 4 blocks on 13-22 shooting while Philly product Kyle Lowry bullied his way to an efficient 23 points and 8 assists for the Raptors. Here’s what I saw:

•    I thought Okafor was even better offensively than his numbers indicate. Multiple times in the first half, the rook would draw the attention of the defense and pass the ball to a teammate in an advantageous situation. Whether that was T.J. McConnell in the corner or JaKarr Sampson at the foul line, that teammate was often unsuccessful in capitalizing on that advantage.

•    Going one-on-one against the likes of Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo, Okafor again looked very good. The defensive shortcomings are what they are, but there is often a learning curve here. It’s tough for such a young guy (rookie big men are almost never good defensively) to log heavy minutes without much help. I still have some long-term reservations about his defense and rebounding, but he’s in a situation where both of those things will get exposed.

•    Including the Orlando game, we now have two very strong showings from Isaiah Canaan at the 2: 18 points on 5-11 shooting and 5-10 from deep. Canaan told me after that game that being a point guard helps him understand angles and where to trail/flare for spot-up 3s. For this team, a Lil’ Sip trey in transition is a pretty good shot.

•    What is up with these third quarters? I need to look up the numbers for the season, but the Sixers have been consistently dreadful out of the halftime break. Tonight, they gave up eleven straight points out of the locker room.

•    The ball movement was great early on, and the Sixers finished with 28 assists to 11 turnovers. The credit mostly belongs to T.J. McConnell (13 dimes) and Phil Pressey, who combined for a 20-3 ratio. Good work by those guys.

Up next

This weekend, the Sixers take a two-game road trip to a couple of Western Conference powers: Oklahoma City and San Antonio. In the first leg of the trip, the Sixers will take on the Thunder. Tip should be around 8:10 pm on Friday. Unless Noel comes back from his wrist injuries, here is my prediction:

(Even with Noel, that’s still my prediction.)

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann