Raptors 99, 76ers 78
Best team in the Atlantic Division was a nice title for three months.
The Philadelphia 76ers wanted more.
A winning record for the first time in seven seasons. A top-four seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. All of those goals are slipping out of reach for the Sixers.
Andrea Bargnani scored 24 points and DeMar DeRozan had 18 to lead the Toronto Raptors to their third straight win, 99-78 over the Sixers on Wednesday night.
Back in January, the Sixers thumped Toronto 97-62 en route to a sizzling 20-9 start. Those days are over for the fading franchise. Elton Brand and Jrue Holiday had 20 points in Philadelphia's eighth loss in the last 12 games. The Sixers (29-25) lost their grip on first place in the Atlantic - and end the season with a stretch of nine road games over the final 11 that could jeopardize a playoff spot.
The good times are gone in Philadelphia and the sub-.500 Raptors were the latest team to roll over the Sixers.
The Sixers' second-half fade reached a low point in the fourth when they scored only four points in the first 7 minutes of the quarter. They missed 13 straight shots in the fourth and scored only 22 points in the second half.
The seven points in the fourth were a team-record low for a fourth quarter dating back to the 1954-55 season.
''I really don't have anything,'' coach Doug Collins said. ''I don't know what to say.''
Both teams played the night before, but while the Raptors beat Charlotte, the Sixers lost a tough one in Miami.
The Raptors got hot in the fourth, shooting 50 percent, while the Sixers missed 17 of 20 shots. Led by Ed Davis' 14 rebounds, the Raptors outrebounded the Sixers 46-29.
''I think this has been a tough season on the players, I really do,'' Collins said. ''I don't think there's any question there's a lot of fatigue. I don't deny that.''
Bargnani's soft mid-range jumper stretched Toronto's lead to 11 points and the Raptors were on their way to their ninth road win this season.
The Raptors had opened up the game on 3s in the third. Alan Anderson snapped a tie game with one to make it 65-62 and Bargnani hit one as part of a rare four-point play for a 73-66 lead. The Raptors took an eight-point lead into the fourth and squashed a Sixers team devoid of the fun and sweet shooting that was so much a part of their mid-winter romp.
''It was just an excellent team effort. Guys stayed together,'' Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ''We had every excuse in the world coming in on the back-to-back, and this team beat us by 30 last time.''
Andre Iguodala left Tuesday's game against Miami with a left eye bruise and wore protective goggles in the first half against the Raptors. He was scoreless and ditched them at the break when they became a nuisance. He wasn't much better without them, scoring six points. He was booed when he fired up an airball late in the fourth.
Igudoala has never really been embraced by the fans and didn't help the relationship when he told Sports Illustrated: ''In Philly, it's not about who you are, it's about what you do for us. You could be the worst person in the world, but if you score a lot of points or win a championship, you can murder somebody.''
Iguodala said he was just using a ''figure of speech'' to describe the mood of the Philly fans.
''It's just the way the media works,'' he said.
Collins brushed off the comments.
''With Dre, he's just not a guy who's going to say a lot of warm and fuzzy things,'' he said. ''That's just not what he does.''
The Sixers are 9-16 after the 20-9 start.
He didn't do much of anything in the first half. Holiday made his first eight shots for the Sixers, a run that included a 3 to end the first half for a 56-55 lead.
Bargnani scored seven points in third and was aided by a strong effort out of Aaron Gray was enough to give the Raptors and rare winning streak.
Jose Calderon briefly left after Brand accidentally elbowed him in the right eye. Calderon returned with his eye bandaged - and nailed a 3 late in the fourth. He had 12 points and 13 assists.
''I felt good out there and I wanted to give it a try after the stitched me up,'' he said.
NOTES: The Sixers are 8-6 in the second of back-to-backs. ... The Sixers have scored less than 80 points in five of the last 11 games. ... The Raptors made all 12 free-throw attempts. The Sixers were 7 of 8.