The Toronto Raptors earned a big win Thursday, defeating the Sixers 107-95 to advance to 30-14 on the season.
Fred VanVleet led the charge and a number of Raptors stepped up when it mattered most as the team continues to build momentum as it heads towards the All-Star break.
Here are some thoughts on this game.
1. That's five in a row
Both teams entered on four-game win streaks, meaning something had to give.
With the win, the Raptors have now won five in a row - it is their third streak of five or more wins this season.
Toronto has taken advantage of an advantageous schedule in the month of January and is building momentum as the month comes to a close.
2. Timely 3s from FVV
Fred VanVleet came up big in this one. Multiple times.
The fourth-year guard finished with a team-high 22 points, with 15 coming in the second half - all from beyond the arc.
VanVleet finished the game shooting 6-for-7 from deep with each of his five second-half triples seemingly coming as part of a big run. He hit two late in the third during a 10-0 run from and late in the fourth, hit two dagger triples to cap another 10-0 run, putting the game away for good.
STONE COLD FREDDY 🥶 pic.twitter.com/fIYNCN2HVM- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 23, 2020
Yeah, Toronto's glad to have him back.
3. Turnovers plague Simmons
Like he typically does, Ben Simmons flirted with a triple-double as he finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
However, the number that stood out the most was his season-high eight turnovers. Prior to this game, his season-high was seven, a figure he reached twice with, with the first instance coming in the team's first loss to the Raptors.
Simmons has now recorded six or more turnovers six times this season and Philadelphia is 2-4 in such games.
Taking care of the ball is a big key moving forward.
4. Marc Gasol's perfect game
The Raptors' five-game streak has coincided with Marc Gasol's return to the lineup.
This game serves as a reminder of why.
The veteran big man didn't miss, as he finished with 17 points on a perfect 7-for-7 from the field, including a perfect 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. He also finished with five boards and three assists. All in 25 minutes of action.
Gasol finds ways to impact games against the Sixers, even with Joel Embiid sidelined.
5. How will the season series end?
The Raptors are now up 2-1 over the Sixers this season, with the final meeting scheduled for March 18.
Toronto can do no worse than tying with its divisional foe, but an outright series win could go a long way with respect to playoff positioning. As it stands, the Raptors (30-14) have a two-game lead over the Sixers (29-17) in the standings.
Winning the season series would technically add another game in that column and add to the Raptors' divisional win percentage, which is a playoff tiebreaker. They moved one step closer with this win.
6. Philly's road woes continue
The Sixers hold one of the league's best home records (20-2) but have one of the poorest road records among playoff hopefuls.
This loss brings them down to 9-15 on the road this season as their well-documented road woes continue to serve as a problem. Philadelphia seems to have an especially hard time in Toronto, where it has now lost 15 games in a row, dating back to the 2012-13 season.
If the Sixers want to make a playoff run, they'll need to figure it out away from home. Especially now, considering they have fallen to sixth in the East.
7. Pascal Siakam is still shaking off the rust
Groin injuries aren't easy to recover from, yet Pascal Siakam is still finding a way to make an impact.
The All-Star hopeful finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds but shot just 8-for- 23 (34.8%) from the field. Since returning, Siakam is shooting 43.7% from the field and his highest-scoring total is 21 - more than two points shy of his season average.
That the Raptors are winning without Siakam at his best level speaks to their depth at full strength and should be an encouraging prospect for once he gets completely back in rhythm.
8. Injuries impact both sides
Less than four minutes into the game, Sixers starting guard Josh Richardson exited the game with a left hamstring strain. He would not return.
J Rich - left hamstring strain, will not return- Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) January 23, 2020
Richardson, who averages 32.3 minutes per game, has already missed eight games this season and will likely miss some time with the injury. With Joel Embiid still nursing a hand injury, Philadelphia will be down two starters for the near future.
Less than one minute after checking in, Raptors reserve Patrick McCaw caught incidental contact to the face and missed the remainder of the game with what was initially ruled as a facial contusion.
Per multiple reports, McCaw has suffered a broken nose.
McCaw has a broken nose, specialist tomorrow.- Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) January 23, 2020
McCaw has reverted to a smaller role since the team has returned to full strength but has proven to be a key cog in Toronto's rotation. More updates will come regardging his status.
9. What's next?
The Raptors are back on the road as they begin a two-game trip against the Knicks on Saturday.
Philadelphia returns home to host LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday.
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