DeMar DeRozan rebounds from flu to help Raptors crush 76ers
Toronto guard listed as questionable hours before game
Moments after powering the Toronto Raptors to a thorough thumping of the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, DeMar DeRozan was gone, bolting home to go to bed.
Fighting a flu bug that had him listed as questionable earlier in the day, DeRozan scored 30 points, including 14 free throws, in an historic 128-94 win — the Raptors' largest margin of victory over the Sixers.
DeRozan was already gone when reporters entered the locker-room, so Kyle Lowry spoke for him.
"Are you shocked about that? I'm not shocked about that," Lowry said of DeRozan's under-the-weather performance. "That's what he does. I think we gave him a little bit more time to isolate tonight. . . Given the opportunity to take his time and be patient, he pretty much gets what he wants."
Dominant against Philly
The win was Toronto's 16th over Philly in 17 games, and eclipsed a 32-point win on Nov. 9, 2014.
Serge Ibaka had 21 points, including five three-pointers, Lowry finished with 17 points, Jakob Poeltl and Delon Wright had 14 points apiece, and Lucas Nogueira chipped in with 10 for the Raptors (2-0), who lost Jonas Valanciunas late in the first half to a sprained left ankle.
It was a more balanced victory than opening night, when the Raptors' young second unit stole the show.
"The starters don't forget how to play basketball," said coach Dwane Casey. "There's a million different ways to skin a cat. . . we've got to be the best Toronto Raptors team we can be. Offensively, there's a niche we have to find, keep moving the ball and most of all what I liked was our defensive intensity."
Former Raptor Jerryd Bayless led the rebuilding Sixers (0-3) with 16 points.
The Raptors led for all but the Sixers' opening basket, and put their exclamation mark on a dominant performance with a beautiful play to end the third quarter — a dump pass from backup point guard Wright to rookie OG Anunoby, who spotted Lowry alone in the corner. Lowry connected on the three-point shot, and the tic-tac-toe play sent the Raptors into the fourth quarter with a 102-71 lead, and delighted a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800 that included rapper Drake.
The insurmountable lead allowed the starters to sit out the fourth as Casey emptied his bench. A three-pointer by Fred VanVleet with six minutes left sucked any last bit of life out of the young Sixers squad, which was missing Joel Embiid. The team's starting centre, who'd had 11 points and 14 rebounds in the Sixers' 102-92 loss to Boston the previous night, hasn't been cleared to play on back-to-back nights.
'It's tough without Joel'
"It's tough without Joel, obviously there's chemistry and then you switch it up," said Sixers rookie Ben Simmons, who had 18 points and 10 boards. "But we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs."
With two wins over rebuilding squads (Toronto beat Chicago 117-100 in the season opener) under their collective belt, things get much more difficult for the Raptors come Monday when they open a six-game western road trip in San Antonio. They'll face reigning NBA champion Golden State, the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland, Denver, before wrapping up the trip in Utah.
Lowry called the two victories "very important."
"We didn't say it out loud but I think internally we all knew that we needed to get those two games at home to get off to a good start then go take care of business on the road," he said.
The Raptors shot 47 per cent on the night, but only hit 13-of-43 three-point attempts. Their efforts at better ball-sharing remains a work in progress — they had 23 assists on the night.
A master at drawing contact, DeRozan spent seemingly half his night at the free-throw line, missing just two of his 16 free throws, Lowry leading the way with five.
Leading by just a point eight minutes into the game, the Raptors closed the first quarter with an 18-3 run to lead 36-19 heading into the second quarter.
The Sixers sliced the lead to single digits several times during the second quarter, but Toronto held on to take a 62-49 advantage into the halftime break.
The Raptors aren't back at the Air Canada Centre until Nov. 5, when they host the Washington Wizards.