Kawhi Leonard Drops 36 as Raptors Outlast Joel Embiid, 76ers

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2018

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 05: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dunks in the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on December 5, 2018 in Toronto, 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 Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Kyle Lowry may feel betrayed by the Toronto Raptors, but that hasn't stopped them from getting the job done against the fellow Eastern Conference elite.

Kawhi Leonard had 36 points on an off night for Lowry, leading the Raptors to a 113-102 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.

Lowry's comments didn't seem to have any on-court effect on the Raptors. They pulled off a double-digit victory despite a 38-point outing from Jimmy Butler.

Lowry told ESPN on Tuesday that he felt betrayed when the Raptors traded DeMar DeRozan to the San Antonio Spurs this summer. He and Leonard have thus far made a far more formidable team, with the Raptors sitting 3.5 games ahead of the next-closest team in the East.

Joel Embiid had 10 points and 12 rebounds, and Ben Simmons added eight points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists for the Sixers, whose four-game winning streak came to an end.

         

Kyle Lowry Needs to Get Over DeRozan Trade

It's unclear how much grieving time should be allotted for "trading your coworker who also happens to be your best friend," but it's been almost five months.

"I felt betrayed because he felt betrayed because that's my guy, that's my best friend," Lowry told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Tuesday in reference to the trade that sent DeRozan to San Antonio and Leonard to Toronto. "So yeah, I felt some type of way on a personal side. It's a harsh business. It's a great business, but sometimes moves are made that you're like, 'Ugh, wow, that sucks.'"

With the Raptors now sitting at 21-5 and in first place in the East, Lowry's comments come across as petulant and potentially damaging.

Prior to Wednesday's game, Masai Ujiri had to come on ESPN and tell the world he isn't beefing with his starting point guard.

Meanwhile, Leonard is out there proving why Ujiri made the right decision. On an evening when Lowry couldn't buy a bucket, Leonard kept the Raptors ahead against perhaps their best competition in the East. He acted as the fulcrum of the offense and hounded Sixers perimeter players on defense.

There is no question the Raptors won this trade.

Ujiri didn't block DeRozan's number in Lowry's phone. DeRozan is still making nearly $28 million to play basketball this season. FaceTime exists. You can still be pals.

Ujiri did his job and made the Raptors a better team. It's time Lowry embraces that.

             

Taxing Workload Will Wear Down Sixers Starters

It may already be happening.

Joel Embiid, who was getting MVP buzz a week ago, has been terrible over the last three games. He's averaging 13.7 points and 13.7 rebounds on 34.1 percent shooting over that span, and he hit a nadir Wednesday.

Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka and Pascal Siakam did an excellent job defensively, and Embiid looked noticeably tired as the game progressed. His frustration boiled over in the fourth quarter to the point where it looked like he was trying to get himself tossed.

Embiid is blasting past his career high in minutes and has yet to sit out a game this season. It's time for him to get a DNP-Rest on the books, although that isn't likely to come in either of the next two games against the Pistons and mortal Embiid enemy Andre Drummond.

But this isn't just an Embiid thing. Butler has been playing an outrageous number of minutes throughout his career, in no small part because of Tom Thibodeau. The Sixers jettisoned Dario Saric and Robert Covington, two key rotation cogs, to acquire Butler. Overextending him due to a short bench is likely to have long-term consequences.

The Sixers badly need to find a trade partner to improve their depth.

Embiid, Butler and Simmons have histories with knee and foot injuries. Wilson Chandler has missed time this season because of a hamstring injury. JJ Redick is in his mid-30s.

Given how thin the Sixers' roster already is, head coach Brett Brown is playing a precarious game with this minutes load for his stars.

            

What's Next?

The Sixers play the Pistons in Detroit on Friday. The Raptors travel to Brooklyn to play the Nets on Friday.

          

Where to Watch: NBA games and related coverage are available through Fubo.TV/welcome.

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