Sixers 98 Raptors 93
PHILADELPHIA — Doug Collins called himself a fixer.
“That’s my nature,” the 76ers coach said.
The Sixers are far removed from the state of disrepair he inherited last summer. He stabilized the franchise and turned them into winners. With the playoffs ahead for his young team, the Sixers proved his work isn’t over yet.
Elton Brand scored 22 points, Thaddeus Young had 20 and the Philadelphia 76ers snapped a three-game losing streak with a 98-93 win over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night.
It was a win, just not an impressive one.
“We need to go into the playoffs feeling good,” Brand said.
Andre Iguodala scored 16 points for the Sixers, who could still finish sixth in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers had already clinched their first playoff appearance in two years. With 41 wins and two games left, the Sixers can finish with a winning record for the first time since 2004-05. They went 41-41 two years ago.
The Sixers are not in post-season form with time winding down to get ready for a bullish battle against Miami or Boston. They blew a 15-point lead against a Toronto team long out of post-season contention. They missed four straight free throws in the fourth that had an eight-point lead cut to two.
They overcame poor free-throw shooting and missing eight of 11 3-point attempts to give their win total — and confidence — an overdue boost.
It’s just not enough to soothe Collins’ concerns.
“We’re just a little bit off-kilter right now,” Collins said. “We’re not as connected as we’ve been. Our rotation is a little screwed up right now.”
He held the Sixers longer than usual with his postgame speech and stressed the need to keep their focus. He gave them Saturday off and hoped a day away from hoops would clear their minds.
“I’m personally anxious,” Brand said. “I hope we’re not looking ahead. Maybe that has a little bit to do with it.”
The Sixers are clearly missing Lou Williams. The reserve guard was an energetic scoring force off the bench. He was fourth on the team in scoring with 13.7 points when he was lost for the rest of the regular season with a strained right hamstring. He was hurt last Saturday and the Sixers don’t know if Williams can return for the first round.
“We’re out of sync,” Collins said. “You lose a big part of the team.”
Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, gobbled the minutes devoted to Williams and scored 10 points. Turner and Young were the only Sixers reserves to play more than 3 minutes.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 27 points and Jerryd Bayless had 24. Ed Davis scored 14. Raptors forward Sonny Weems left the game in the second quarter with a sore right knee and did not return.
Bayless kept the Raptors in it with a three-pointer with 28.5 seconds left that pulled them to 96-93. Toronto snagged Iguodala’s missed driving layup, and set up one last play out of a timeout.
Bayless shot an airball to end the threat.
Raptors forward Reggie Evans was whistled for a technical late earlier in the fourth after arguing a no-foul call. Coach Jay Triano also was hit with a ’T’ and was ejected for arguing the same play.
Jodie Meeks made 1 of 2 free throws for the Sixers to make it 88-80. The Sixers were 23 for 31 from the line — the kind of performance that could cost them in a tight playoff game.
Triano said he had “no idea” why he was tossed.
“We said we weren’t going to quit and we didn’t,” he said.
The Raptors played the first half like a team that couldn’t wait for the season to end. They missed 14 straight shots over the first and second quarters, dribbled the ball off their feet and passes were sloppy.
Brand led the Sixers early and Iguodala’s jumper midway through the second put them up 33-18.
Down 54-42 at the break, the Raptors finally got their game together. The Raptors found their touch and made 12 of 18 shots in the third. Bayless’ 3 with 21 seconds gave the Raptors a 72-70 lead.
Young, though, ended the third with a three-point play and Iguodala opened the fourth with one of his own to help the Sixers get some breathing room.
“I just want to see us keep growing, not go backwards,” Brand said.
NOTES: Raptors C Andrea Bargnani has missed five of the last seven games with a sore right ankle. … The Sixers and Raptors finished the season series tied 2-all. … The Sixers have held opponents below 100 points in each of the past seven games. … Young outscored the Raptors bench 20-11.