Raptors look to sweep home-and-home with 76ers
The red-hot Toronto Raptors, fresh off a 114-109 victory over Philadelphia, will try to complete a sweep of the home-and-home set when they host the 76ers on Saturday.
DeMar DeRozan had 45 points and six 3-pointers, both career highs, as the Raptors erased a 22-point third-quarter deficit to win Thursday's game in Philadelphia. The victory was Toronto's fifth straight, and its 11th in 12 games.
"I think that DeMar was DeMar, and they're one of the elite teams in the NBA," Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
The Raptors, whose 22-8 record is second-best in the NBA's Eastern Conference, didn't play like an elite team until they fell behind 76-54 three minutes into the second half. Reserve Delon Wright sparked them by packing all 12 of his points into the period, which ended with Toronto down by just two.
DeRozan then helped close things out by notching five of his points in a pivotal 10-2 run late in the game.
"Sometimes you have games where you let your All-Star take over," said his backcourt partner, Kyle Lowry, who added 23 points. "The offense may not be as beautiful as it was (Wednesday) night (in a 129-111 victory in Charlotte), but his game was beautiful, and we got a win."
DeRozan embraces his role as closer.
"That's our job," he said, referring to himself and Lowry. "We all understand that. It always comes down to that, sometimes in the fourth quarter, whether it's me or Kyle. ... We lean to whoever it is that's got it going to take us home."
Coach Dwane Casey took a wider view of the comeback.
"Grit is the No. 1 thing I think we had in the second half that we didn't have in the first half," he said. "We are going to have a lot of nights where you face adversity and that grit is what's going to have to come through."
Ben Simmons had 20 points to lead the Sixers, who were without center Joel Embiid, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, for the third straight game because of back tightness. Starting guard J.J. Redick also sat out with hamstring tightness.
Robert Covington contributed 19 points and Dario Saric had 18 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists for Philadelphia, which dropped its fourth straight and its eighth in nine games.
The Sixers also fell to 1-7 without Embiid this season, but coach Brett Brown was encouraged.
"I saw great things from this group," he said. "I saw a team fight without Jo and without J.J. We got up big at home, we ended up losing that lead to a really good team. We're disappointed but I go a few layers deeper and I see what I see in that locker room and how they genuinely care and we're going to get better. We're going to get better. We're going to get healthy."
Embiid, listed as probable before his last-minute scratch Thursday, traveled with the team to Toronto on Friday, according to Sportsradio WIP, though his status is not known for Saturday's game. The same can be said of Redick.
The Raptors were without guard C.J. Miles for the second straight game Thursday, after he underwent a dental procedure. He is expected to return Saturday.
Updated December 23, 2017