The team from the 6ix has now dropped six games in a row, its latest setback suffered at the hands of the Sixers in the City of Brotherly Love.
While the losing skid is worrisome with games in the Big Apple and Cleveland looming before the Christmas break, the Raptors were much better Monday night and had a chance to end their ugly slide.
Philly won 104-101, but it had to dig deep and hold on as Pascal Siakam almost willed his team to a much-needed win en route to a season-high 38 points.
His potential game-tying shot wouldn’t drop as Toronto’s record dropped to 13-18.
A Siakam scoop shot with 5.1 seconds left in regulation tied the game 99-99.
The game required overtime when Joel Embiid settled for a fadeway as the clock expired when his perimeter heave hit front iron.
In overtime, Embiid scored the first points after he converted both of his free throws.
Simply put, Toronto couldn’t make shots, even when open looks were yielded.
Siakam needed help and no one was able to emerge as a legitimate and consistent scorer. When the ball needed to be in his hands, the Raptors couldn’t free him up, even as the Sixers were called for two offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions.
Toronto fought and scrapped all night to the point where it led 86-79 four minutes into the fourth quarter.
Toronto then watched as the Sixers made it a one-point game with the game turning much more competitive and dramatic in the final two minutes of regulation.
An 8-0 Philly run gave the home side a one-point lead, but it would get extended to three.
It was then Toronto’s turn to respond.
OG Anunoby was back following a four-game injury absence. To the surprise of no one, he lacked rhythm with his offence.
When he drew a foul, Anunoby missed both of his free throws midway through the game’s opening quarter.
His first make arrived with 5:37 left in the second quarter when he buried a three-pointer. Once he rediscovered his stroke, his shots were pure.
Clearly, his presence was a key reason why the Raptors looked better and played better.
With Gary Trent Jr. sidelined for the third straight game, the Raptors turned to Malachi Flynn when a floor spacer was needed.
The guard tandem of Flynn and Fred VanVleet is serviceable, but it’s far from ideal.
With the Raptors trailing by nine points with 4:24 left in the opening period, VanVleet picked up his second foul.
Philly converted from the line to extend its run as the home side forged a double-digit advantage.
Toronto’s under-sized backcourt did help fuel an 11-0 run as the game’s opening 12 minutes ended with the visitors leading 23-22.
Toronto was very active and aggressive on the defensive end, while overcoming a scoring drought that lasted more than three minutes.
Overall, the Raptors were a far cry from the Sunday side that seemed to throw in the towel in a blowout loss to the Warriors, who scored 36 first-quarter points.
The second quarter began with the Sixers going with a smaller, quicker lineup as the pace picked up with Philly attacking the rim. The Sixers made their first seven shots from the field.
Ex-76ers forward Thad Young became the third player asked to guard Joel Embiid. The Raptors then had both Young and Khem Birch on the floor.
What doomed the Raptors in the second quarter was the 17-4 run by the Sixers to open the period, the main reason why Toronto trailed 57-46 at the break.
Philly’s second unit outscored Toronto’s reserves 25-17 in the opening half.
A scrappy and desperate Raptors team refused to go gently into the Pennsylvania night, first responding to a Sixers salvo and then mounting an 11-0 run to close out the third quarter.
The energetic and explosive wing player named Tyrese Maxey was once again inactive.
Maxey came of age during last year’s post-season when the Raptors and Sixers hooked up in a six-game opening-round series won by Philly.
Maxey has not played since Nov. 18 when he fractured his left foot in a matchup vs. Milwaukee.
He has yet to receive clearance to practise fully.
When the Raptors played host to the Sixers in a mini two-game set earlier in the season, Maxey went off for a combined 75 points.
The Raptors trotted out their 17th different starting lineup.
While the club welcomed back Anunoby with open arms, chemistry became a concern featuring a starting five consisting of VanVleet, Siakam, Scottie Barnes and Juancho Hernangomez.
The biggest issue with this look was defence.
Barnes picked up two fouls barely four minutes into the game.
He didn’t pick up his third foul until there were 5:32 left in the third quarter, a sequence featuring P.J. Tucker, a one-time Raptor, that saw Barnes get teed up.
One issue facing the Raptors involves size.
Second-round pick Christian Koloko shouldn’t be starting, unless it’s in the G League, and yet on Sunday against visiting Golden State he made his 17th start.
Entering Monday’s tip, Koloko was the only Raptor to appear in all 30 games.
The first big off the bench at Wells Fargo Center was Birch.
Koloko doesn’t have the strength or skill to guard Embiid and isn’t quick enough to match up when Philly went small.
Not surprisingly, the kid never saw the floor.
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