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You're not likely to see Wednesday night's game on ESPN Classic anytime soon, but a win is a win and the Toronto Raptors (13-22) were able to bounce back after two straight home losses with a 90-72 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Toronto's desire to slow down the attack did not gel with Philly's attempts - often unsuccessful - to implement an up tempo attack. After a turnover-heavy first half that saw 18 cough-ups in total (the Sixers' starting back court of Jrue Holliday and Evan Turner had seven on the night), the Raps pulled away in the second half by protecting the ball, continuing to assert themselves defensively (Philly shot 39.2% from the floor and scored a season-low in points) and getting some productive minutes from the starting quintet.
What was a 42-40 advantage at the break grew thanks to a 48-32 second half showing from the home side.
A shortened bench (only eight Raptors saw the floor) mixed with Fields returning to game shape (and to the starting five) offered the former Knick an opportunity to be a focal point on Wednesday. He wasn't the team's leading scorer (in fact, each of the other four starters outscored him), but he logged the biggest minutes - and deservedly so. On top of recording his first double-double since Feb. 2, 2012, he picked up a +18 on the night and collected three steals while defending a wide span of Sixers, including (at times) Evan Turner, Nick Young and Thaddeus Young.
The Starting Five
During their recent run of success (prior to the two-game slide against Sacramento and Oklahoma City), it seemed as though wins were coming in spite of Toronto's starting line-up rather than because of them. Remember the win over Portland, when 60% of the starting rotation failed to register a point? Anyway, against Philly, the starters were able to compensate for a razor-thin bench by each scoring in double figures (as a unit, they outscored Philly's starters 78-57). And they did so efficiently, shooting a collective 54.8% (34-62) with none of Fields, DeMar DeRozan, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis shooting below 50%. Beyond scoring, Fields, Calderon and Johnson finished with double-doubles (Davis came up one rebound shy).
It was clear to anyone on hand on Wednesday that the team's fruitful run of strong attendance figures had come to a halt. The announced 15,629, generous as it always is, still represents a drop of nearly 3,000 from the season's average (still can't figure out how the club ranks 12th league-wide in attendance average). The running joke (well, more like half-joke) among staff was that people had already shifted into hockey mode with the lockout lifted. More accurately, this was a mid-week game against a meh opponent in a game that came after a) the last remnants of people's holiday break and b) a visit by the Thunder.
Recently (read: before his ankle sprain), it was Terrence Ross who couldn't build on a breakout showing with a strong follow-up performance. This time, it was Alan Anderson who failed to recapture the magic of Sunday's 27-point outing against OKC. Getting passed up for the start in favour of Fields, Anderson couldn't get into a rhythm against Philly, managing just nine points on 4-13 shooting while also picking up a trio of fouls and turnovers.
- Scary happenings in section 108 during the fourth quarter, with a reported violent seizure creating a rather chaotic scene. Luckily, the response was very quick and there didn't seem to be any serious damage done.
- Interesting to hear rumblings of a potential Calderon/Davis for Rudy Gay deal. Yes, it's just a rumor, but Raptor deals have been known to leak in the past and this one would offer an interesting sign of a franchise that feels like they're ready to take the next step. Or, you know, a general manager (the only Bryan/Brian left, incidentally) feeling the heat and trying to bring about job-saving improvement.
A Friday night visit from the Charlotte Bobcats (7:00pm, TSN) brings good news and potential bad news for the Raps. Good news is that the Bobcats come in having won just two of their last 22 games and might be without centre Byron Mullens (ankle sprain). The disconcerting news is that Toronto is 0-1 against Charlotte this season and those two wins happen to be road victories (in Chicago and Detroit) which have come over the past four games.
Prediction: Raptors 98, Bobcats 96 (23-7 this season)