The Sixers tackled two hurdles on Monday afternoon: holding onto a substantial lead and beating a top-three team in the East. They conquered both as they held off the Raptors, 117-111, at Wells Fargo Center.
The Sixers nearly blew a 21-point edge when the Raptors cut the lead down to one with three minutes to play. The Sixers were back up by eight with 1:25 to go, but C.J. Miles made it a three-point game with under 40 seconds to play thanks to a nifty tip-in.
It wasn't until Joel Embiid drained a pair of free throws, all while waving to the crowd at the line, that the Sixers iced the contest with 11 seconds remaining.
The Sixers had been 0-8 against the Celtics, Raptors and Cavaliers (the top three teams in the Eastern Conference) this season, including an 0-3 mark against the Raptors. With the win, the Sixers moved back up to .500 on the season as they now sit at 20-20.
Embiid led all players with a 34-point, 11-rebound double-double. He scored 18 points in the first half alone. Embiid and Ben Simmons combined for the Sixers' first 20 points of the game.
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The Sixers have been in need of a spark off the bench and they got it in the form of T.J. McConnell. The reserve guard posted 18 points, six rebounds, eight dimes and three steals. He contributed when the Sixers were in a pinch. Simmons played just 1:36 in the second quarter after picking up this third foul. McConnell and Jerryd Bayless clocked a combined 18 minutes off the bench. McConnell posted seven points, four assists and three rebounds in that quarter.
JJ Redick left the game with a left leg contusion and did not return.
The Sixers held off the Raptors' backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan (24 points) and Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry (13 points). Delon Wright once again played well against the Sixers with 20 points off the bench for Toronto.
Things got chippy between McConnell and DeRozan in the second quarter. As McConnell regained possession off a Raptors turnover, DeRozan pushed him and was called for a foul. McConnell took exception and had words for DeRozan, who then pushed him again with one hand. DeRozan was issued for a personal foul and both players were hit with techs. Sixers fans booed DeRozan for the rest of the game.
The game didn't end without final sparks. Simmons and Lowry were both issued techs and ejected with only six seconds to play.
TJ McConnell steps to DeMar DeRozan after an in game clash.
Things are getting heated between the Sixers and the Raptors. pic.twitter.com/UWuMIwpT4I— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 15, 2018
Markelle Fultz worked on free throws and driving drills before the game.
#MondayMorningMarkelle pic.twitter.com/5fw3dh5Nj4— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoNBCS) January 15, 2018
The Sixers are next in Boston to play the 34-10 Celtics Thursday.