Bosh Leads Raptors To Season-Opening Win Over 76ers
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Chris Bosh just about single-handedly carried the Toronto Raptors into the playoffs last season. Now he has a much-improved supporting cast.
Bosh had 27 points and 11 rebounds to help the Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 95-84 on Wednesday night in the opener for both teams.
Jermaine O'Neal added 17 and Jason Kapono had 15 for the Raptors, who finished 41-41 last season.
The Raptors improved drastically when they acquired O'Neal, a six-time all-star, from the Indiana Pacers, on July 9. He appears to be healthy after missing 40 games last season because of lingering pain from a torn ligament in his left knee that was surgically repaired the previous summer.
"I feel really good,'' O'Neal said. "I said from the time I got here that I wanted to be part of the team and bring playoff-type intensity every night. We have to treat every game like a playoff game.''
The Raptors should benefit defensively from O'Neal's presence. Raptors coach Sam Mitchell liked what he saw defensively Wednesday night.
"I can't say enough about our defence,'' Mitchell said.
The start of the game was moved up an hour to 6 p.m. because the Philadelphia Phillies and Tampa Bay Rays were set to resume the bottom of the sixth inning of Game 5 of the World Series at 8:37 p.m. across the street at Citizens Bank Park.
Many fans attending the Sixers game were wearing Phillies attire in anticipation of the city's first major professional sports championship since 1983 when Philadelphia swept the Los Angeles Lakers. Still, it was a sparse crowd with pockets of empty seats scattered throughout the 20,000-plus seat Wachovia Center.
In the second half, chants of "Let's Go Phillies!'' began to resonate in parts of the arena, especially as fans began to file out.
Lou Williams scored 16 points, Andre Iguodala added 15, Elton Brand had 14 points and 13 rebounds in his Sixers debut and Montreal's Samuel Dalembert pulled down 17 rebounds. Andre Miller had 13 points.
"It's disappointing,'' Brand said of the loss. "There's (game) tape in the background and I see these layups they got. It hurts.''
The Sixers lured Brand away from the Los Angeles Clippers in the summer and signed the free agent forward to a five-year, US$79.8 million contract. Brand was limited to only eight games last season because of a ruptured left Achilles.
The Sixers took a chance on the nine-year veteran, who is one of four active players in the league to have averaged a double-double for a career along with Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Shaquille O'Neal. Brand entered the 2008-09 season with career averages of 20.3 points and 10.2 rebounds.
Philadelphia started 18-30 last season but rallied to finish at 40-42. The Sixers then pushed the Detroit Pistons to six hard-fought games in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs before falling short.
Toronto outscored the Sixers 33-24 in the second quarter to take a 51-45 lead at halftime.
The Raptors built a 14-point lead on a three-pointer by Jose Calderon with 44.8 seconds left in the third quarter. But a basket by Brand and three free throws by Williams - after being fouled on a three-pointer - cut the lead to 74-65 at the end of the quarter.
Toronto led by as many as 14 in the second half and maintained a steady lead throughout most of the fourth quarter.
A three-point play by Williams with 2:39 left cut the Raptors lead to 88-82.
"I thought we had the momentum back, but it wasn't meant to be,'' Williams said.
Bosh responded with a jumper and Kapono hit a three-pointer, giving Toronto a commanding 93-82 advantage.
The Raptors connected on 10-of-16 three-pointers which helped offset a rebounding deficit of 56-33.
"Obviously, we're a good shooting team,'' Kapono said. ``Our wing guys can make shots. Our big guys can make shots. We have to improve some on the boards. It was a huge road win against a quality team.''
Notes: Philadelphia F Marreese Speights, the team's first-round draft choice, was inactive. Despite being on the active roster, Sixers G Royal Ivey was ineligible to play against the Raptors as well as Friday against New York. Ivey was suspended for three games on April 14 of last season while playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. He punched Chicago's Aaron Gray in the groin and sat out the regular season finale at Minnesota, the first of three games.