Tonight the Toronto Raptors improved to 7-2 against their division by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 104-95 on the road. Toronto now improves their overall record to 22-20, which momentarily ties them with the Atlanta Hawks. Coming off a huge comeback victory against the Mavericks the other night, DeMar DeRozan and the Raptors had some momentum heading into tonights matchup. DeMar followed a career high 40 point effort in his previous game with a 34 point, 9 rebound performance tonight against the Sixers. The game was a tight contest until the fourth quarter where Toronto’s league leading crunch time defence really became a factor. Only 8 players suited up for Toronto tonight, and with the return of Tyler Hansbrough the Raptors should have a solid 9-man rotation moving forward.
The Raptors performed relatively well on the offensive end of the court tonight. A few times they were a bit too unselfish, but with an offence by committee apporach; it’s bound to happen. The Raptors finished the game shooting 47.6% with the team totalling 28 assists on 40 made field goals. Greivis Vasquez may not have had his shot going down, but he was able to provide a nice spark off the bench dishing out 7 assists. John Salmons also had a consistent shooting night, chipping in with 12 points on 5-7 shooting; he also hit a pretty sweet fadeaway three to end the first half. If DeRozan’s effort to solidify his place as an All-Star wasn’t demonstrated in his game against Dallas, than this encore performance is surely that extra push. There was a point in the game where DeMar missed 8 straight shots and didn’t get deterred. Usually I’d be begging for Dwane Casey to take him out, but I was intrigued by how he had responded. Instead of continuing to jack Rudy Gay-esque long jumpers, DeRozan switched his focus to attacking the rim, and went to the line for the next three Raptor possessions. DeRozan is growing, and I’m truly glad he’s evolving into the great player he’s becoming as a Raptor.
Up to the fourth quarter the Raptors defence was looking kind of suspect. The Sixers were getting far too many easy looks at the rim, and changes weren’t being made. For some reason, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas‘ interior presence just wasn’t a factor for the Sixers because they were able to penetrate and get to the rim at will. They may not have converted very often (only shooting 42.7%) from the field, but it was still effecting the pace of play for the Raptors who were slow to adjust. Toronto got their sh*t together and locked down Philadelphia in the fourth holding them to only 17 points on the way to a victory.
The Raptors outrebounded the Sixers 53-42 which is mostly to the Sixers missing a ton of shots. However, the Raptors kept Philadelphia off the offensive glass and secured important 50-50 possession, which posed crucial in the waning moments of the game. Toronto’s leaders on the glass tonight did not consist of players from the starting frontcourt; but the backcourt. Kyle Lowry led the Raps with 10 boards while DeRozan had 9 rebounds of his own.
Game Ball: Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry gets the hometown nod tonight and receives Raptors Cage’s metaphorical game ball. Another Raptor trying to make an All-Star push, Lowry had a career night of his own. In front of friends and family, Lowry posted the 4th triple-double of his career (18 pts, 13 ast, 10 reb & 2 TO) while leading the Raptors to victory. Lowry is an undeniable presence for the Raptors, and hopefully the rest of league is able to recognize his value to a winning formula. Lowry + DeRozan = Wins for Toronto Raptors = Playoff Team = 2 players worthy of being an All-Star.