TORONTO – There was no added motivation for Scottie Barnes to show up his former head coach on home court. However, the Toronto Raptors fell short a second straight night in trying to get a win.
Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey each scored 34 points in leading the Philadelphia 76ers to a 114-107 win over the Raptors in Nick Nurse’s first trip back to Toronto on Saturday. The Raptors had dropped a 104-103 overtime decision to the Bulls in Chicago on Friday night.
“No,” Barnes said when asked of any extra motivation. “You know, was just trying to go out there and win, try to beat these guys. Just trying to get back on the right track. Come out there the next game and play better, play harder. Try to go out there and win.”
Nurse was with the Raptors from 2013-2018 as an assistant coach before being promoted to head coach, which lasted from 2018 until his firing on April 21.
Nurse, who was hired by the 76ers on June 1 to be their head coach, led the Raptors to their lone NBA title in his first season at the helm.
He was met with applause by the Scotiabank Arena crowd upon his pre-game introduction and a standing ovation during a first quarter timeout when “Thank You Nick” was shown on the videoboard.
“Not really but I would say that I wasn’t maybe ready for coming back this quick and I thought it did,” Nurse said of reflecting on his time in Toronto. “Like I said in the beginning, it felt like really way more stranger than I thought it was going to feel.
“I know everything’s magnified on this level, but I’ve left teams and gone back to coach at places many many times in my career. But it’s 10 years.
“You know, I always say my kids are born here. They got Canadian passports, did all that time with the national team. Unbelievable the way people have treated me here, unbelievable city right? It’s kind of hitting me a little bit, for sure.”
Kelly Oubre Jr. added 18 points off the bench for Philadelphia (1-1), which earned its first win of the young NBA season.
“They were making shots, Embiid dominated on the post-ups, he’s definitely a beast the way he plays, the way he carries that team,” said Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic.
“And Tyrese Maxey had an amazing night, shooting 7-for-9 from the three-point line, making the right decisions, getting to the rim. They played well, give them credit.”
Barnes had a team-high 24 points for Toronto (1-2), with rookie Gradey Dick scoring 16 for his first career regular-season points.
Toronto went a perfect 7-for-7 from three-point range in the opening quarter. Dick made his first NBA basket, for three of his eight points in the frame, and the Raptors went up 36-27 to end the quarter.
“Of course,” Dick said of remembering his first points. “It’s a special thing … to say that was my first point in an NBA game is something special and a dream come true.”
Maxey hit a three with 5:07 left in the second quarter for Philadelphia’s first lead since 8:44 of the first. But Toronto answered with an 11-0 run, eventually taking a 59-56 advantage into halftime.
Philadelphia opened the third quarter on a 15-2 run, with eight coming from Embiid, just over four minutes in.
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While the Raptors later answered with a 10-2 run, the 76ers kept Toronto at bay behind Embiid and Maxey’s combined 29 points in the frame, and took a 91-79 lead into the fourth.
“Lack of energy or tired, whatever might be the case, but we just did not have the juice that stretch there,” Rajakovic said. “But we did not give up.
“Our guys are very resilient and we continued playing all the way to the end, we were trying to find a way to get in the game and steal a win tonight.”
Down 100-92, Dick nailed a straightaway three with 6:20 left in the game. But Maxey punctuated a 7-0 run with a triple to give the 76ers a 12-point advantage with 4:15 remaining, a lead they never relinquished.
‘IT WAS TIME’
Nurse was given the boot by the Raptors after a 41-41 year that concluded with a play-in tournament loss to Chicago to miss the post-season. It was the second time in three years Toronto had missed the playoffs.
However, Nurse said pre-game that he wasn’t disappointed by his firing.
“I think like I said when I left, many times, was is felt like it was time, probably for both sides and still feels that way to me looking around,” he said.
“I look at them play and they look like they’re playing great and I’m really enjoying coaching this team, so I think everybody’s where they’re supposed to be.”
The Raptors play the second of their three-game homestand against the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday.
The 76ers take on the Trail Blazers on Sunday in the first of a five-game homestand.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 28, 2023.
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