Game Preview: Raptors vs. 76ers
The Raptors will close out a four-game homestand against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday evening. Toronto is coming off a 111-100 victory against the Indiana Pacers after bouncing back from a disappointing home loss against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. Philadelphia comes to Toronto after falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 122-105 on Friday.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / TSN1050
After defeating the 76ers in the first two meetings between the teams this season, the Raptors dropped a 94-89 decision to the Sixers in Philadelphia on Jan. 18. The loss came when the Raptors were going through a rough patch. The Sixers won largely because of a brilliant game from Joel Embiid who had 26 points nine rebounds, two assists, two blocks and a steal. It was the first loss in a season-high five-game losing streak for Toronto.
With six games remaining in the regular season, the Raptors are looking to begin the postseason with momentum on their side, but are being careful not to look too far ahead. Aside from Wednesday's fourth-quarter hiccup against the Charlotte Hornets, the team has won eight of its last 10 games and are focusing on each game as it comes.
"You've got that confidence," DeMar DeRozan said about heading into the playoffs on a high note. "You've got that swagger that you feel internally when things are rolling. You just feel good when you're out there on the court. It's something where we're still working our way up in the last six, seven games, to even get it that much higher."
Continuing to seek consistency
Although Dwane Casey's team is handling the challenge of playing without Kyle Lowry remarkably well — the Raptors are 13-6 since Lowry had wrist surgery — he continues to preach the importance of remaining consistent each and every night, no matter the opponent or situation.
"We've got to continue with a consistency," Casey said. "It's a broken record, but we've got to continue to get better."
Philadelphia comes to Toronto with a 28-48 record in a season that has has both highs and lows for a young team.Casey has cautioned his own team not to pay attention to the record.
"Tomorrow's going to be the challenge," he said. "You have a team, a young team coming, trying to find their identity. They're playing hard, but you look at their record, do you let down? No. Our whole goal is consistency.
"Human natures in the NBA is you relax a little bit at this time of the year. Our challenge and our goal is we have to not let up, [have the] same intensity whoever is on the court, we go out and play to our identity which is playing hard, physical defence, moving the basketball for 48 minutes."
Wright showing off smooth skill set
Cory Joseph has had to handle the bulk of the point guard duties in the absence of Kyle Lowry, but sophomore Delon Wright has also stepped up, doing his best to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity. A second-year point guard playing behind a three-time All-Star in Kyle Lowry and a veteran back-up point guard in Cory Joseph generally does not get late-season opportunities for a playoff team.
Lowry's injury has opened an opportunity for Wright to show what he can do. Like most young players, there are ups and downs, but what stands out is a poise and control when he is on the floor.
"He's smooth, man," DeMar DeRozan said. "You can see with all of the moves he do, he's got an arsenal of moves. He's extremely crafty, from slow to fast, fast to slow — his court vision is amazing. He's a big guard. It's cool when he's out there making things happen."
After a disappointing showing from the bench in Toronto's loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday, Wright and the second unit made up for it in Friday's victory against Indiana. In 22 minutes against the Pacers, Wright finished with 11 points and six assists. He shot 4-for-5 from the floor, made his only attempt from three and turned the ball over just once. His efforts on the other end of the floor were what caught the attention of the coaching staff.
"I thought Delon did an excellent job running the show, defensively picking up with some full court pressure," Casey said. "That same group struggled the other night against Charlotte but tonight they made up for it and came in and brought energy, full court pressure, turned them over a couple of times and got some easy buckets."