DeRozan leads Raptors to sixth straight win
TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan had so much fun against the Philadelphia 76ers on Thursday when he scored a career-best 45 points, he decided to do it again Saturday.
This time the Toronto Raptors guard scored 29 points, going 9 of 20 from the field, to lead the scoring in a 102-86 victory over the Sixers.
“I think he has been doing an excellent job of shooting the basketball, playing with confidence,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “And we need him, we need that spark.”
The Raptors (23-8) have won six in a row and 12 of their past 13 games while the 76ers (14-18) have lost five in a row and nine of their past 10.
The Raptors are 18-1 against the 76ers since 2013-2014.
“It’s just understanding the reads,” DeRozan said. “When you study, pay attention to everything out there on the basketball court, you kind of see things before they happen and understand your comfort zone. Once you kind of get that mentality on the court everything looks real simple.”
“He sees the game at a different speed than we all do,” Casey said. “The game is slowing down for him. The guys are also doing a good job of spacing around him and he’s doing a good job of kicking out and finding the threat and that is great.”
The 76ers again hurt themselves with turnovers, committing 23 leading to 28 Toronto points.
“I thought we did a better job of not blatantly whacking them, fouling them like we did at home,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “We did a little bit better job with the offensive rebounding. I think the turnovers, especially in the first half, continue to hurt us. I leave mostly thinking that this is a really good team. I think they’ve lost one game at home (12-1), I think they’ve won 12 of their past 13 games (overall) and we felt every bit of that.”
DeRozan said playing well at home is one of the keys to being a good team.
“You have to be able to take care of business whenever you go out there and play teams, especially the teams with lesser records,” he said.
The Raptors led by 18 points entering the fourth quarter and held a 16-point lead after Serge Ibaka’s emphatic dunk with 3:17 to play.
The benches began to empty soon after.
Ibaka added 17 points for the Raptors, Delon Wright had 14 with Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas chipping in with 12 each.
Dario Saric led the 76ers with 17 points and Joel Embiid had 14 points and eight rebounds. Amir Johnson added 12 and Ben Simmons 10 points.
Embiid, who had missed the previous three games, was listed as questionable with a “tight back” until game time. He made the start and scored the Sixers’ first eight points of the game.
Philadelphia’s Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot closed out the first-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 27-27.
Ibaka led the Raptors with 13 first-quarter points. The Raptors led 55-46 at halftime.
The 76ers had 14 turnovers in the first half, leading to 21 Toronto points, while Philadelphia scored 11 points off eight Raptors turnovers.
“Take care of the ball, I think that’s when we’ll start winning,” Johnson said. “I really think it is just our turnovers. It’s tough when you are in transition or in mid-play, throw lob passes and then we’re scrambling back in transition. We play at a fast pace and we just have to take care of the ball.”
Toronto pushed the lead to 13 when DeRozan hit a free throw with 10:29 left in the third quarter. The Sixers trimmed the deficit to four with 6:15 left in the quarter on a free throw by Saric.
DeRozan connected on a 3-pointer and Wright made a driving layup with 2:33 to go in the third and Toronto’s lead was back up to 12 points.
The Raptors led 81-63 after three quarters.
“I just think we should have been more aggressive at the start of the game,” Simmons said. “Having Joel (Embiid) back, trying to get him the feel and to get him back into his rhythm at the start of the game, so that was a little tough adjusting back to that.”
NOTES: Philadelphia G JJ Redick (right hamstring tightness) missed his second consecutive game Saturday. ... Toronto F/G C.J. Miles (dental procedure) missed his third straight game Saturday and C Lucas Nogueira (strained right calf) has missed 11 games in a row. ... Philadelphia picked up three technical fouls Saturday and the Raptors had none. ... The Sixers visit the New York Knicks on Monday for a game starting at noon Christmas Day. ... The Raptors will visit the Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday.