On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, T.J. McConnell put on a show for the home crowd and led the Sixers to a 117-111 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Monday afternoon in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day matinee at the Wells Fargo Center, it looks for all intents and purposes like the Philadelphia 76ers were going to let yet another game they had been in control of slip away.
But instead the Sixers for once managed to hold on for a win against a top-three Eastern Conference team in the form of the Toronto Raptors and came away with a 117-111 victory.
Joel Embiid finished the day with 34 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists while the team’s other superstar in the making Ben Simmons spent most of the day in foul trouble and rode the bench, totaling just 12 points.
Embiid and Simmons accounted for the Sixers’ first 20 points of the game and it looked like coach Brett Brown had a new strategy in place: give the ball to Simmons or Embiid and get out of the way.
But with Simmons in foul trouble, Brown had to go to his bench and got an amazing game from guard T.J. McConnell. He finished with 18 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals. His 18 points is a new career-high and he also had a blocked shot to round out his afternoon.
McConnell also continued to add to his reputation as a tough competitor when he got into an altercation with Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan pushed McConnell after a Raptors turnover and the 6-foot-2 guard was having none of it.
TJ McConnell steps to DeMar DeRozan after an in game clash.
Things are getting heated between the Sixers and the Raptors. pic.twitter.com/UWuMIwpT4I
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) January 15, 2018
After the game, McConnell said he felt no hard feelings toward DeRozan, understanding things like this happen during games.
“It’s basketball. That kind of stuff happens. I kind of thought the shove wasn’t needed, but I know he had no intent behind it. He’s a good guy, so it was just the heat of the moment stuff.”
The Sixers had been up by as many as 21 points but once again looked like a team that was just incapable of finishing games. With three minutes left on the clock the Raptors has gotten within one but instead of folding like a cheap chair the Sixers stood their ground and thanks to a pair of Embiid free throws, came away with the win.
Simmons and Raptors guard Kyle Lowry were both ejected from the game with 6.5 ticks left on the clock, but by then the outcome was sealed.
This was by no means a pretty win and the Sixers still have myriad issues that they need to work on, including turnovers. Simmons and Embiid combined for 13 alone so it is an continuing problem that needs to be worked on.
In addition, JJ Redick limped to the locker room after suffering a left leg contusion and did not return. His status going forward is unknown.
The victory gets the Sixers back to .500 for the season with a 20-20 record and is their first win against Toronto this season.
Up next for the 76ers is their final game this season against the Boston Celtics. The game will be aired on TNT this Thursday as the Sixers try to get their first win of the season against their longtime rivals.