Sixers fall to Raptors, brace for first-round date with Celtics

Keith Pompey, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Basketball

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Bring on the Boston Celtics.

The 76ers learned their fate for the opening round of the playoffs minutes before Wednesday's game against the Toronto Raptors. The Indiana Pacers had just beaten the Houston Rockets to clinch at least the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. That locked the Sixers into the sixth spot and a first-round showdown with the third-seeded Celtics.

With that, the Sixers' 125-121 loss to the Raptors at Walt Disney's HP Field House was meaningless from a win/loss standpoint. It will be the same thing for Friday's seeding-game finale against the Houston Rockets at The Arena.

Perhaps the biggest suspense on this night involved Joel Embiid. The three-time All-Star center was whacked on his right wrist in the first quarter.

He was evaluated at halftime and the X-rays were negative. Embiid was scheduled to play limited minutes and did not return in the second half. He finished with five points on 1-for-5 shooting to go with nine rebounds and five turnovers in 13 minutes, 35 seconds.

Tobias Harris finished with a game-high 22 points and a team-high two blocks in 24:46. Former Villanova standout Kyle Lowry had 19 points in 24:56 for the Raptors (52-19).

Right now, the focus is on making sure Embiid is healthy and getting the team ready for the Celtics (48-23) when the playoffs are set to begin on Monday.

The Sixers (42-30) must find a rhythm without Ben Simmons. The two-time All-Star and team's best defender had surgery Monday morning in Philadelphia to remove the loose body in his left knee. Simmons will be reevaluated in about two weeks. The team has been preparing for the playoffs as if the 6-foot-10, 248-pounder won't be available at any portion of them.

So on Wednesday, starters Embiid (twisted left ankle), Josh Richardson (rest), Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee) were all available after missing Tuesday's 130-117 loss to the Phoenix Suns.

They did rest guard Alec Burks (left foot soreness) and Glenn Robinson III (left hip pointer soreness). Robinson, who was a late scratch, will be reevaluated on Thursday. The hip pointer held him out of all but Tuesday's game.

The hope is that he'll be ready to provide depth in the postseason.

The Sixers hold a 3-1 season-series advantage against the Celtics. Embiid averaged 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 blocks in three games played against the Celtics.


Due to his size, the Sixers match up well against Boston at the center position due to Celtics not having many bigs. Daniel Theis, at 6-foot-8, is the starting center.

However, Horford, a former Celtic, might have a tough time defending their perimeter players. All-Star Jayson Tatum plays power forward in Boston's small lineup. Boston also has advantage at the guard spot, so Embiid may have to play at an MVP level for his team to win.

On Tuesday, the Sixers faced a Raptors team without four of their players and head coach Nick Nurse.

Toronto was without Oshae Brissett (right knee soreness), Patrick McCaw (left knee soreness), OG Anunoby (right knee soreness), and Serge Ibaka (right knee contusion).

Nurse took the night off, as assistant Adrian Griffin coached the Raptors. Nurse was in the arena. With the second seed in the East locked up, this was a good opportunity to give Griffin, a head-coaching candidate, experience.

"I think coach (Nurse) is an awesome human being," Griffin said. "He understands that a coach like me that needs some reps in being a head coach. He knows my ambitions. He wants to see me grow as an individual on and off the court. It's an awesome gesture by coach."

Nurse approached Griffin with the idea.

On Friday, the Rockets will be without Russell Westbrook. The point guard underwent an MRI that revealed a strained muscle in his right quadriceps.

(c)2020 The Philadelphia Inquirer

Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.