Toronto Raptors rally to overcome improved Philadelphia 76ers

By Andy Jasner, The Sports Xchange  |  Jan. 10, 2016 at 1:27 AM
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PHILADELPHIA -- On the second leg of a back-to-back, the Toronto Raptors were struggling for energy.

It took a while, but their veteran leaders came through.

Guard Kyle Lowry recorded 25 points, six rebounds and five assists and guard DeMar DeRozan added 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists in leading the Raptors to their third straight win, a 108-95 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, on Saturday.

"We started slow, bounced back, chopped away and got the win," said Lowry, who starred at nearby Villanova before his NBA career began.

Center Jonas Valanciunas scored 17 points and swept nine rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 24-15 overall, 13-9 on the road. Guard-forward Terrence Ross contributed 16 points off the bench while forward Patrick Patterson scored 11.

"I give them credit," DeRozan said of the Sixers. "They're a different team from a month ago. They play extremely hard."

Guard Ish Smith poured in a career-high 28 points on 12-for-22 shooting while center Jahlil Okafor scored 19 and forward Carl Landry chipped in 11 for the Sixers (4-35), who fell to 2-14 at home.

Smith scored 18 of his points in the third quarter alone.

"The end result is to win," Smith said when asked about his career high in points. "There's no moral victories."

Victories have been scarce all season for the struggling Sixers.

"Teams like that make you excited about what we could become one day," Okafor said.

The Sixers briefly got within four points, 75-71, early in the fourth quarter after a layup by Landry.

Lowry heated up and scored eight points during a stretch to push Toronto's lead to 88-77 with 6:18 remaining.

"We knew we would turn it around," DeRozan said. "We just had to step it up and lock in."

Philadelphia closed to 91-82 late in the fourth, but the Raptors responded with five straight points, capped by a deep 3-pointer from Patterson to put them ahead 96-82.

"That's a playoff team and that might be a deep playoff team," Sixers coach Brett Brown said of the Raptors. "You appreciate their shot makers."

The Raptors led 66-51 early in the third quarter and seemed to be in complete control.

Following some sloppy play by the Raptors and improved offensive execution by the Sixers, Toronto's advantage was trimmed to 75-69 after the third. The Raptors didn't score in the final two minutes of the quarter.

"We found a way," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "It was a struggle. It was a grind."

The Sixers began the game on a torrid pace, rolling to a surprising 12-0 lead. But the Raptors scored the next nine points and cut the Sixers' lead to 26-25 after the first quarter.

Okafor knocked down his first six shots and stayed aggressive throughout the entire opening half.

Guard Isaiah Canaan gave the Sixers a spark by hitting consecutive 3-pointers in five seconds, pushing their lead to 38-34.

DeRozan responded in a big way with a pair of highlight-reel dunks to even the score at 38.

The Raptors closed the half on a 23-6 run to take a 57-44 advantage into the locker room.

Toronto's bench provided a lift with 25 points, 15 coming from Ross. After a slow start, the bench gave the Raptors a surge down the stretch and, ultimately, a 13-point halftime lead.

After this win, the Raptors will next play against the Orlando Magic Thursday in London.

NOTES: Newly signed Sixers F Elton Brand remains inactive. Brand said he hoped to return to the lineup in about a week. ... Raptors G Kyle Lowry has seven double-doubles this season. ... Toronto has won 11 in a row over the Sixers since the start of the 2013-14 season. ... Sixers rookie C Jahlil Okafor has produced at least 20 points 14 times this season, the most by any rookie. In addition, Okafor has reached double figures in scoring on 32 occasions. ... The Raptors are 22-3 when holding the opposition to less than 100 points. ... Sixers rookie G T.J. McConnell leads all rookies in steals, with 50.

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