Playing in front of his family and friends, Kyle Lowry put on an All-Star caliber performance in his hometown of Philadelphia. Recording his fourth-career triple double (18pts, 10reb, 13ast), Lowry lead the Toronto Raptors to a 104-95 victory over the youthful 76ers. Not to be outshined, however, was the other Raptor in the backcourt and potential all-star candidate, DeMar DeRozan. Derozan, who was fresh off a career-high 40-point explosion against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night, showed much of the same offensive utility in tonight's game. Finishing with 34 points on 10 of 22 shooting, DeMar displayed his maturity by forcing his way to the rim and drawing contact when his shot faltered. The 30 NBA head coaches will decide on the All-star reserves in the coming days, with the announcement taking place on Jan.30th. It's likely that if they actually take Jack Armstrong's advice to, "Watch the game!", one of DeRozan or Lowry should make the cut.
This game started as one might expect with the Raptors jumping out to an early 13-2 lead. The Sixers looked
like themselves shaky and Toronto took advantage by knocking down open shots. Looking crisp early on was Terrence Ross who capped off the opening run by nailing a three pointer and forcing Philly to take a time out. Jonas Valanciunas contributed 6 points early on, but a few mental lapses by the young center prompted Dwane Casey to replace him with Patrick Patterson. Towards the end of the first quarter, the Raptors went cold and found themselves down 22-20. As was the case for much of the game, when Toronto needed a bucket, Lowry took control. He hit two jumpers and dished out a pretty assist to Patrick Patterson in the final two minutes of the first quarter to bring the Raptors to within one.
Despite shooting 36.4% from the field in the second quarter the Raptors managed to head into the locker room with a 53-52 lead. The Raptors second unit, along with DeRozan, trade buckets with the Sixers for the first six minutes of the quarter before handing the reigns back over to the starters. To be honest, it was an ugly quarter of basketball. At one point, DeMar missed eight straights shots. That's a lot of shots, but to his credit, he had the awareness to change gears and ended up shooting six of eight from the free throw line in the quarter.
The Raptor's starting five found their rhythm in third, in large part due to the well-rounded point play of Lowry. At times he looks the part of a true floor general in the way that he utilizes screens, draws the defenders attention with his penetration and finds the open man. Tonight's lucky beneficiary was Amir Johnson who hammered home two dunks and finessed a hook shot, all of which were courtesy of Lowry assists.
Heading into the 4th quarter with an 82-78 lead, Casey went back to the bench plus DeMar lineup and it delivered. So much so that Casey opted to keep the trio of Hayes, Patterson and Salmons out on the floor for nearly the full quarter. But the fourth quarter unquestionably belonged to DeRozan. His 16 fourth quarter points, on 5-7 shooting, was impressive to say the least. Equally impressive was the Raptors defense in the final frame, where they held the Sixers to 30% shooting. Against the Sixers or not, these are NBA players and 30% from the field reflects a defensive win in my books.
This game may not be remembered in a week from now, but it was another example of Toronto getting a well-deserved win against a team that they're expected to beat. With the Raptor's schedule getting significantly easier from here on out, they have the opportunity to extend their lead of the Atlantic Division. Next up, Lob City. Sorry Doc.