By Peter Brennan
The Sixers returned to the scene of last May’s Eastern semifinals seventh-game disappointment and the result was the same.
The Raptors won and they got help from Ben Simmons, who followed his best NBA game with one of his shabbiest — he turned the ball over eight times!
Pascal Siakam had 18 points and 15 rebounds, Fred VanVleet scored 22 and Toronto beat the short-handed 76ers 107-95.
Philly lost guard Josh Richardson when he strained his left hamstring while trying to make a steal four minutes into the first quarter. He did not return.
“He’s a big part of this team defensively and offensively, so we’re going to miss him for however long he’s out,” Simmons said.
Richardson had scored 15 or more points in seven of the past eight games, He did not speak to reporters following the game, but the team said he will be re-evaluated Thursday. Richardson missed six games in late November and early December because of a right hamstring injury.
Joel Embiid missed his eighth straight game after undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left hand.
“We thought that our best opportunity to steal a win on the road without Jo and J-Rich was going to be to hunt some 3s and spread the thing around and play fast and share the ball,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “At the start of the game, in the first period, we did that quite well.”
The Sixers connected on seven of 14 attempts from beyond the arc in the first, but just 11 of 32 the rest of the way. After making 14 field goals in the first, the Sixers had 18 in the final three quarters combined.
“Even with guys out we still had a chance to be in this game and get a win,” forward Tobias Harris said. “Give them credit, they did a really good job after the first quarter defending us.”
Norman Powell scored 18 points, Marc Gasol shot 7 for 7 and finished with 17 points, and Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka each scored 16 as the Raptors won their 15th straight at home against the 76ers.
“They had like five totally uncontested 3s in the first four minutes of the game but we (defended) when it mattered,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We were moving and flying, playing physical most of the second half, I thought.”
Simmons had 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists for the 76ers, narrowly missing his second straight triple-double. But he had just two points and one rebound in the fourth quarter as Philadelphia’s four-game winning streak was snapped.
“There was a physicality to their game that you felt,” Brown said of Toronto’s defense.
Harris scored 22 points, Furkan Korkmaz had 17 and Matisse Thybulle 13 for the 76ers.
Philly trailed 93-90 after Simmons scored on a dunk with 4:26 left in the fourth, his only points of the final quarter, but Toronto answered with a 10-0 run over the next three minutes as the Sixers missed five straight shots.
“We turned the ball over a couple of times in that stretch, which led to them getting out in transition,” Harris said. “On our part, we didn’t get good offensive execution on getting up good shots and good looks that we needed. It’s something that we’ve got to get better at.”
Harris stopped the drought with a pair of free throws in the final minute, but it was too late for the 76ers.