76ers' Embiid, Maxey deliver a crushing blow to Raptors in Nurse's return to Toronto

The Raptors have now lost back-to-back games, falling to 1-2 to start the season.

TORONTO — The Philadelphia 76ers’ star duo of Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey delivered a tough blow to the Toronto Raptors, beating them 114-107, in what marked Nick Nurse’s return to Scotiabank Arena.

The reigning MVP finished with 34 points, behind an array of jumpers and post-ups, to go with nine rebounds, eight assists and two blocks. Maxey also had 34, proving particularly electrifying while Embiid sat, slicing his way to the rim and connecting from distance, where he went 7-9.

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 28: Nick Nurse coach of the Philadelphia 76ers salutes the crowd after a video tribute was played for the time he coached the Toronto Raptors in a break in play during the first half of their basketball game at the Scotiabank Arena on October 28, 2023 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)
Nick Nurse salutes the crowd after a video tribute was played for the time he coached the Toronto Raptors. (Credit: Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

While it was also Nurse’s return to Toronto, it marked his first win with the 76ers. When asked if there was any “extra motivation” to get the win, given that it was against the Raptors, Maxey responded, “most definitely.”

“[Kelly Oubre] said right before the game when we ran out, ‘let’s win this for coach.’ It’s just ironic that we’re playing them … It was good for him,” said Maxey.

Nurse said it felt “stranger” than he thought it would, as he reflected on a game that also featured a thank you video in his return.

In terms of what happened between the lines, the 76ers were able to grab a commanding presence of the game in the third quarter especially, where they outscored the Raptors 35-20, including a 21-5 run to start the frame.

“Lack of energy, or tired or whatever might be the case, we just didn’t have the juice in that stretch,” said Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic, who still credited his team for being “resilient, while trying to find a way to get in the game and steal a win tonight.”

It was Embiid and Maxey who dominated the Raptors, combining for 27 points in the third frame alone, as they entered the fourth quarter with 29 apiece. The former imposed his will against the Raptors' centre Jakob Poeltl, who finished the game with a -19-plus/minus, while the latter's scoring display was especially impressive considering he didn't take a shot in the first quarter.

The Raptors were also without their best defender in O.G. Anunoby, who was dealing with cramps that flared up the night before in their loss to Chicago.

“[Embiid’s] definitely a beast the way he plays, the way he carries the team…Tyrese Maxey, heck of an amazing night … They played well, give them credit,” said Rajakovic.

For the Raptors, it was Scottie Barnes who led the way, finishing with 24 points (11-16 shooting), eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks. In regards to playing and seeing his former coach in Nurse, Barnes seemed to "not really" have any interest or added motivation to get the win.

“I don't know. I didn't really look over there that much. I was focused on the game," said Barnes. "Good to see him, I guess.”

For Barnes, he upped his play after the 76ers made their third quarter run, seeming to call his own number more often. When asked if he should have set a more aggressive, individual tempo earlier, Barnes said he was just trying to “go with the flow,” considering the Raptors finished the first half with the lead and were playing “really well.”

It was mainly behind hot three-point shooting, as the Raptors went the first-half going 10-16 (62 percent) and 17-32 (53 percent) for the game. That included a three-point bomb from Barnes just short of the logo, and also Gradey Dick’s first bucket as an NBA pro, as the rookie first-round pick finished with 16 points on 4-6 shooting from deep.

Gary Trent Jr. also finished with a team-high 16 shots (for 17 points), as he replaced Anunoby in the starting lineup.

For the Raptors, an absent scoring punch was felt from Pascal Siakam, who after scoring eight points in the first quarter, only finished with 11 points on 3-8 shooting for the game.

“We definitely need to find him more opportunities,” said Rajakovic, noting the team needs to do a better job of shifting the opposing defence to create space for Siakam to operate.

Even without their star power, the Raptors were able to make a push in the fourth quarter, ultimately cutting the 76ers' lead to five with about six minutes left. However, Philadelphia's one-two punch proved to be too much for the Raptors to handle.

The loss marks two straight for the Raptors in their back-to-back set after losing to the Chicago Bulls in somewhat embarrassing fashion a day earlier in overtime. It also puts Toronto’s record for the fresh 2023-24 campaign at 1-2.

Up next, the Raptors host the Portland Trailblazers on Monday night at Scotiabank Arena.