Eastern elites clash as Sixers host Raptors
The Toronto Raptors hope to bring some momentum from home when they face the 76ers on Tuesday in Philadelphia in a battle of Eastern Conference elites.
The Raptors stayed hot at home with a 121-103 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday. It was Toronto's 38th victory overall and their 10th in 11 games at home, improving to 22-5.
Kawhi Leonard scored 18 points while Serge Ibaka had 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Ibaka has posted six straight double-doubles, the longest streak by any Raptors player since Chris Bosh had eight in a row in November 2009.
The balanced Raptors, who played without injured All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, also received 15 points each from C.J. Miles and Pascal Siakam and 14 from Delon Wright.
Lowry is questionable for the game against the Sixers. Fred VanVleet started in Lowry's place against the Clippers. Lowry missed six games in December and January with a similar back injury.
Despite the comfortable margin of victory, Raptors coach Nick Nurse wasn't thrilled with the effort.
"That was probably not the most intense game of basketball we've seen in this building for a while," Nurse told reporters. "But we'll take one every once in a while in this long season."
Toronto is 8-4 without Lowry and 11-3 without Leonard this season.
"I've coached a lot of teams either in Europe or in the minor leagues (where) pieces move," Nurse said. "I've become quite used to coaching what I've been given on the day or the week or the month. That's just kind of how I look at it."
The Raptors bring an impressive 16-11 road record into Philadelphia, where the 76ers are 21-5 this season.
The Sixers, who are opening a four-game homestand, last played on Saturday night in a 115-108 loss at Sacramento.
Philadelphia was short-handed without guard JJ Redick (rest) and forward Wilson Chandler (quad). Chandler is expected to be out for at least two weeks.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers with 29 points and 17 rebounds but shot 9 of 24 from the field. Jimmy Butler scored 29 points and drained 18 in the fourth quarter. Butler, who converted two four-point plays, played a stellar all-around game with seven assists, four rebounds and gritty defense the entire game.
Without Redick, the Sixers struggled with their shooting, going 7 of 33 from beyond the arc.
Beyond the statistics, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown acknowledged how difficult it was to win on the road without two key players.
"What you realize is we need a healthy team," Brown said. "You're not fighting with your whole arsenal and you need to. There's not much wriggle room as it sits."
The 76ers also received a huge boost from Ben Simmons, who scored 22 points. Simmons, who added eight rebounds and four assists, was recently named as a reserve for the first time in the upcoming All-Star Game.
"It was one of those games where they kept throwing punches," Simmons told reporters. "We didn't respond the right way."
--Field Level Media
Updated February 5, 2019