Matt Tierney - Raptors.com
Toronto (54-26) will suit up in front of their home fans tonight for the final time this regular season when they welcome Philadelphia (10-70) to Air Canada Centre. The Raptors recorded a franchise-best 23rd road victory Sunday after holding off a determined Knicks team at Madison Square Garden. Despite another disappointing season, the Sixers continue to battle till the end, losing a hard-fought overtime game to Milwaukee two days ago.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Ish Smith – Smith has given this 76ers team a spark in his second go round in Philadelphia. After being acquired midseason from New Orleans, the 6’0” point guard is putting up 15 points, seven assists and four rebounds a game. He has also played well against the Raptors, averaging 17 points in their two matchups this season.
Jonas Valanciunas</strong – JV is rounding into form just in time for the playoffs. He is averaging a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds over his last 10 games while also chipping in defensively with just fewer than three blocks a night. Expect Valanciunas to get a lot of touches tonight against a Philadelphia team who is thin in the frontcourt and are missing the services of starting centre Jahlil Okafor.
FACE OF THE FRANCHISE
Chalk up another record in a remarkable season for the Toronto Raptors.
In Toronto’s 93-89 victory over the Knicks on Sunday, DeMar DeRozan recorded 27 points, making him the second-highest scorer in franchise history.
The milestone had extra significance for the 26-year old who overtook Vince Carter in the process. “It’s hard to believe honestly. He (Carter) was someone I grew up watching and idolizing. To pass him on the all-time scoring list, words can’t describe it,” said DeRozan postgame Sunday.
The achievement also struck a chord with Dwane Casey who began coaching DeRozan when he took over in 2011.
“He is a young player in this league but he is a student of the game. He represents everything you want. He understands the moment for this team. He doesn’t get caught up in things. I am happy for him."
Of course, All-Star teammate Kyle Lowry, took the opportunity to poke fun at his friend when asked his thoughts on DeRozan’s accomplishment.
“That means he is a gunner. He shoots too much. He doesn’t pass enough."
Growing up admiring Carter, DeRozan now has the opportunity to match another achievement by the former Raptor. Win a playoff series.