DeRozan's 35 points pace Raptors past Sixers

PHILADELPHIA -

DeMar DeRozan picked the perfect time to rediscover his all-star form.

Mired in the worst shooting slump of his career, DeRozan notched a season-best 35 points in Toronto’s 114-103 win over the 76ers, as the Raptors snapped a season-worst five-game losing skid.

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With Kyle Lowry resting, Toronto’s other star busted out, mixing jumpers with trips to the free throw line to carry the scoring load. DeRozan added nine rebounds and five assists, shooting 12-for-24 (and two of the attempts were desperation, end-of-quarter heaves).

The defence remained highly problematic — the Sixers scored 54 points in the paint, shot 53% and notched an absurd 32 assists (Golden State leads the NBA at 27 per game) and Jonas Valanciunas was ignored down low all too frequently, but that can be dealt with later.

Greivis Vasquez had 12 points and five assists in place of Lowry and Lou Williams was good off the bench, scoring 21 points, along with five assists and no turnovers.

DeRozan exploded for 15 points in the first quarter, his top scoring 12 minutes of the season and had 18 by the break, the most he had scored in an entire game over the past week.

“I was out six weeks without playing basketball, that was the longest I’ve ever been out since I’ve been in the NBA, and just getting accustomed to playing night in and night out my typical minutes, my style of play and everything. My rhythm was a little off,” DeRozan said of the slump.

Now, he hopes all of that is over with.

“It helps a lot. It didn’t matter who we got this win against. We understood we just needed to get this win to get the monkey off our back so we could get back to playing us and get that confidence back. I think we shared the ball great tonight. Just a few things we’ve got to work on but it definitely helps.”

Vasquez said a change in game-day preparation paid off.

“Coach really managed shoot-around differently today, it was more fun, we just had a competition shooting. Didn’t have too much pressure,” Vasquez explained.

“Sometimes we lose sight of the things that we have done and we’ve done some great things. We were just having fun at shoot-around and we carried that over to the game.”

The Raptors will continue to play it safe where Lowry is concerned — he sat for Saturday’s loss against the Knicks as well and Dwane Casey indicated Lowry might not play on Wednesday at the ACC against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who sit just 1.5 games back of the Raptors in the East.

“One more game or a couple more games, we haven’t decided that part yet,” Casey said.

“He went through a long stretch there playing with injuries and it’s come to a point where, hey let’s slow him down, shut him down and let him recover and get ready for the stretch run.

Lowry played through a dislocated finger and other ailments, including an abrasion on his hand that has gotten worse.

“He’s got a big gash on his hand that he got in the Washington game when he dove for the ball. I don’t know if it got infected but whatever it was, it was pretty nasty.”

Lowry said he was feeling a bit better, but understands the franchise is playing the long game and, most importantly, agrees with that strategy.

“I’m taking my time and coaches wanted me to get some rest and some time off and I think in the long run this will help me and help the team out,” Lowry said.

Lowry averaged just 11.9 points on 34% shooting in February, far below his season numbers of 18 points on 41% shooting. Asked whether it was tough to sit at home, Lowry was honest.

“Oh of course, yeah, but at the same time, you are getting older in your career and you’ve got bigger plans than to try to go out there and force and force something, especially when you have bumps and bruises, where you can take some time to get healthy, the long term is the plan, the long term for our season is really the goal in mind,” he said.

Lowry said he would play if the Raptors let him, but he is fine with getting some rest.

“At the end of the day, that’s what coaches and the organization are for, they are looking out for the best for the team. For me, I really respect the way they came at me. I want to be the best player I can be.”

Even his teammates were a bit surprised he agreed to take a seat though.

“He won’t let anybody in on it. I’m surprised he lets the trainers in on it,” said Patrick Patterson, who scored 15 points.

“Kyle is such a hard worker. He’s such a bulldog. He doesn’t show any weakness. He doesn’t show any pain. He may be hurt. He may have bumps, cuts, bruises on his body and I’m sure he does right now which is why he’s taking some time off because he’s in pain. But whoever we play, whoever the opponent is, whatever the circumstances are, Kyle doesn’t let anybody know, whether it’s the teammates or the opposition.”

The Cavaliers will provide a far sterner test, but the Raptors will take this one.

“It’s tough in this league. I don’t care who you are, it’s tough to win in this league and I think sometimes you take it for granted,” Casey said.

“Guys have to appreciate the focus and the effort you have to have to win in this league no matter who you play, and I thought we had it tonight.”



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