Raptors defeat injury-riddled 76ers

Raptors 113 76ers 105

TORONTO — Two days after scoring 40 points against Indiana, DeMar DeRozan turned provider Sunday.

DeRozan, the league’s fifth-leading scorer with 27.3 points per game, had more assists (eight) than points (six) in the first half of Toronto’s 113-105 win over the injury-riddled Philadelphia 76ers.

DeRozan, who finished with 17 points, helped Serge Ibaka have his best night as a Raptor with 24 points. The six-foot-10 forward from the Republic of Congo missed his first five shots on the night then hit his next nine and finished 11-of-17 from the field. Thanks mostly to the largesse of DeRozan, Ibaka had 18 points in the first half.

“One time I passed him the ball and told him to finish it,” said Ibaka. “And he passed it back to me. I asked him ‘Why didn’t you finish it?’ He told me “You have it. Keep shooting.’

“And when you hear something like this from the best player on the team, that gives you a lot of confidence.”

DeRozan admitted that he went into the game looking to get his teammates going.

“It’s fun,” he said of assisting others. “Sometimes people get caught up in scoring.”

Toronto led by as many as 17 in a game that had little drama in terms of outcome after the Raptors, leading 44-43 with 5:37 remaining in the second quarter, went on a 15-6 run to end the half with a 10-point lead. Ibaka had eight points during that stretch.

Toronto (47-30) has won eight of its last nine games. The 76ers (28-49) have lost their last three and six of their last eight.

In dispatching Philadelphia for the ninth straight time at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto ticked off several boxes. The Raptors moved one step closer to the 50-victory mark and kept pace in the volatile Eastern Conference race.

Leading 86-76 going into the final quarter against a 10-man Philadelphia roster, Toronto coach Dwane Casey was also able to use his bench liberally down the stretch. DeRozan played 31 minutes five seconds, down from his usual 34-plus.

And with 25 total assists — the fifth straight game with at least 20 — Toronto moved the ball to the delight of the soldout crowd of 19,800.

Ibaka, who also had six blocked shots, enjoyed his highest-scoring night as a Raptor. His previous Toronto best was 22. His career high is 31 with Orlando.

“Once he started making shots, he got us going,” said Casey.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown called Ibaka “an unbelievable pickup for this organization as they start gearing up for the playoffs.”

He was equally impressed by DeRozan. “He’s an all-star for a reason.”

DeRozan finished with a season-high nine assists, punishing Philadelphia for the extra attention.

“They were sending two bodies at him,” Casey said of the Sixers. “He did a great job of finding people … That’s a great sign for him to be able to execute like that.”

Toronto’s starting lineup combined for 74 points and shot 56.1 per cent from the field. Six Raptors finished in double figures.

French rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, who was averaging 5.3 points a game, had a career-high 23 points to lead Philadelphia. The 21-year-old guard had 11 in the first quarter alone after hitting three three-pointers.

Croatian forward Dario Saric, who missed his first six shots before landing a three in the third quarter, added 16 points for the Sixers.

Canadian Nik Stauskas contributed 14 as the Philadelphia bench kicked in 52 points.

The 76ers finished with 21 turnovers, which yielded 29 points for the Raptors.

Toronto was without forward P.J. Tucker (sore left knee) and Kyle Lowry, who is nearing a return from a wrist injury that has kept him out since the all-star break.

“(Lowry) needs to hurry back. Playing point guard is exhausting,” DeRozan joked.

The Sixers’ injury list was far longer, including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jahlil Okafor, Robert Covington, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez. Philadelphia dressed 10 players after fielding just nine in Friday’s 122-105 loss in Cleveland and all 10 saw action in the first quarter.

Saric, hampered by left heel soreness, was operating under a ”guideline” limit of 24 minutes playing time Sunday. He saw 23 minutes 47 seconds of action.

“I’m assuming it took (PR director) Mike Preston what five minutes to go through the injury list?” Brown said prior to the game.

The 76ers signed power forward Alex Poythress on Sunday, using the league’s injury hardship exception. And Brown said the team may ask for more injury help.

Toronto’s next game is Tuesday at Indiana.

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