After surviving a scare against the NBA’s worst team, the surging Toronto Raptors figure to be better prepared for what appears to be another favorable matchup.
Looking to inch closer to the Atlantic Division crown, the Raptors go for their first season sweep of the visiting Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night.
Playoff-bound Toronto (45-32) has won six of seven, including three straight after a harder-than-expected 102-98 victory at Milwaukee on Saturday. Greivis Vasquez, starting in place of injured point guard Kyle Lowry again, matched a season high with 26 points and DeMar DeRozan scored 15 of his 23 in the fourth quarter.
Jonas Valanciunas added 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who were outscored 64-34 in the paint and 20-3 in transition.
"We can’t look at a team’s record, come in here and think this is going to be a cakewalk," DeRozan said. "That team came out here and played extremely hard. They kind of blindsided us and we had to fight the whole game."
Toronto will try to avoid the same mistakes against the 76ers (17-60), who recently tied the NBA record with 26 consecutive defeats. The Raptors had dropped seven of nine to Philadelphia before taking all three meetings this season while averaging 106.7 points.
Toronto most recently won 104-95 in Philadelphia on Jan. 24 behind 34 points from DeRozan, who is averaging 31.3 in the season series. Lowry finished with 18 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.
Lowry has been held out the last three games with a bruised kneecap and Amir Johnson has missed back-to-back contests with an ankle injury. Both players practiced Tuesday but are uncertain to face the Sixers.
The Raptors would love to see them suit up as they try to keep pace with Chicago for the Eastern Conference’s No. 3 seed. Toronto, sitting a few games ahead of Brooklyn in the Atlantic, captured its first and only division title in 2006-07.
The Raptors, who tied the franchise record with 47 wins that season, set the mark in ’00-01. They may be able to break it with a softer remaining schedule featuring two matchups against New York, one against Detroit and another versus the Bucks following this contest.
The 76ers had been outscored by an average of 18.8 points in dropping 13 straight road games before winning 111-102 at Boston on Friday. Philadelphia, though, couldn’t keep up the following night, falling 105-101 to the Nets at home.
The 76ers managed to make it interesting after falling behind by 21 in the third quarter.
"Where I draw my comfort, is that they continue to be coached," coach Brett Brown said. "We are doing our best to coach them. And we are seeing improvement. We are playing hard. And our young guys are playing their hearts out."
Thaddeus Young scored 20 points and Michael Carter-Williams became the first 76ers rookie to record 11 assists without committing a turnover since Allen Iverson in 1997.
Carter-Williams’ 3.6 turnovers per game rank among the worst marks in the league. He recorded 10 and 11 assists in two meetings with the Raptors.
Valanciunas will play two days after being charged with drunk driving. He has averaged 17.6 points over the last five games, up from his season mark of 11.0.