The Philadelphia 76ers are moving in the wrong direction and it won’t be easy to turn things around fast as they host the red-hot Toronto Raptors on Thursday night in the first of a home-and-home set. The 76ers, who visit Toronto on Saturday, have lost three in a row and seven of eight after a 101-95 setback against Sacramento on Tuesday without star center Joel Embiid (back) for the second straight night.
“Anytime you have this volume of losses in the month of December, you have a tendency to second-guess,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown told reporters. “But we’ll stay strong, stay together, and welcome some healthy people back into the mix.” Embiid (24.1 points, 11.0 rebounds) is also expected to miss the matchup against the Raptors, who have won four in a row and 10 of their last 11 contests after rolling over Charlotte 129-111 on Wednesday. All-star guard DeMar DeRozan poured in 28 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field in the victory for Toronto, which has scored at least 115 in three of the past four games. The Raptors have been almost unbeatable at home this season (11-1), but seem to be a different team on the road (10-7).
TV: 7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet One (Toronto), NBCSN Philadelphia
ABOUT THE RAPTORS (21-8): DeRozan scored at least 28 for the third time in four games Wednesday while forward Serge Ibaka recorded 24 points against Charlotte despite being slowed by a knee injury. Rookie forward OG Anunoby poured in a season-high 20 points, draining 6-of-7 from 3-point range, and has scored in double figures in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Point guard Kyle Lowry runs the show for Toronto and should be well rested after being limited to 24 minutes on Wednesday when he scored 11 and dished out eight assists.
ABOUT THE 76ERS (14-16): Rookie Ben Simmons has drained 20-of-34 from the field the last three games and boasts a pair of triple-doubles along with four double-doubles in nine contests this month. “He really has an abundance of growth to make, and he will,” Brown told reporters. “To think that he can put his signature on the NBA game like he does with so much room for improvement in some skill areas is exciting.” Simmons averages 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 7.9 assists while guard J.J. Redick is contributing 16.5 points, but he left the last game with a hamstring injury.
1. The Raptors have won 16 of the last 17 meetings, including a 128-94 triumph on Oct. 21 with 30 points from DeRozan.
2. Philadelphia PF Trevor Booker returned Tuesday after missing one game with an ankle injury, recording six points and six rebounds in 16 minutes.
3. Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas boasts 404 career blocks after posting one Wednesday to pull within one of Antonio Davis for fourth on the franchise’s all-time list.
PREDICTION: 76ers 108, Raptors 100