Raptors, 76ers kick off home-and-home series

The Toronto Raptors will be looking to extend their hot streak when they visit Philadelphia on Thursday night, the first half of a home-and-home set against the skidding 76ers.

The Raptors (21-8) ripped the Charlotte Hornets 129-111 on Wednesday night to win their fourth straight game and their 10th in the last 11.

DeMar DeRozan scored 28 points, Serge Ibaka added a season-high 24 and Toronto established season highs for 3-pointers (16, in 33 attempts) and assists (35, on 49 field goals).

Rookie forward OG Anunoby also had 20 points, a high for his 29-game-old NBA career, while making 6-of-7 attempts from the arc.

“I didn’t think he could shoot this way,” guard Kyle Lowry told the Toronto Star. “I think his confidence is built, he’s worked on it tremendously and he’s continued to get better at it.”

Ibaka, who missed Sunday’s victory over Sacramento with a sore left knee, has scored 15 points or more in his last eight appearances.

“Serge has been playing great the last few weeks and when Serge is playing great it makes everyone else’s job that much easier.” DeRozan told the Star. “No one can lock in on guys like me and Kyle.”

The Sixers (14-16) are in a tailspin, having dropped three straight and seven of eight.

Center Joel Embiid, their leading scorer and rebounder, has missed the last two games with a sore back, and ESPN.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, citing unnamed league sources, reported that he could sit out both games against the Raptors — Thursday, as well as Saturday in Toronto. Wojnarowski added that Embiid is expected to return for a game on Christmas Day against the New York Knicks on the road.

Philadelphia is 1-6 this season when Embiid doesn’t play.

Guard Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in this year’s draft, has missed most of the season with a shoulder ailment. Guard/forward Justin Anderson has been out since mid-November with shin splints, and guard J.J. Redick sat out the second half of Tuesday’s 101-95 loss to Sacramento with a tight right hamstring. His status is unclear for Thursday’s game.

The Sixers have also lost their way since their 13-9 start.

“Our defense especially has deteriorated,” coach Brett Brown said before the Sacramento game. “We have to reclaim who we are.”

Philadelphia, which frittered away a 16-point third-quarter lead, was outscored 30-17 in the final period Tuesday.

Sacramento shot 47.8 percent, the Sixers 25 percent in the period, when Kings guard Buddy Hield scored 10 of his 24 points, and Garrett Temple added all nine of his.

“It’s frustrating, but I think we can get it going down the stretch into Christmas,” said rookie Ben Simmons, who finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. “I believe in this team and the coaches. I don’t doubt anybody, and the ability for us to win games.”

Brown, meanwhile, believes his team needs some reinforcements.

“We look forward to reclaiming some health,” he said. “We look forward to reclaiming some form and rebuilding our confidence.”

Toronto’s Lucas Nogueira is out with a torn right calf muscle.