Raps stymie Sixers in Philly

Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani shoots under pressure from 76ers forward Elton Brand at the Wells...

Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani shoots under pressure from 76ers forward Elton Brand at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Penn., April 4, 2012. (TIM SHAFFER/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

PHILADELPHIA - In a season that will end for the Raptors when the playoffs begin, getting excited about anything this time of year seems a bit forced, but the circumstances were a little different Wednesday night.

For a team that was starting to wonder if it had lost its defensive swagger, the night could not have gone any better.

For a half it looked like those defensive concerns might be completely warranted. Both the Sixers and the Raptors were scoring with abandon. It was almost like defence had been outlawed or the first 40 minutes of any all-star game ever played.

But a 15-point third quarter by the Sixers followed by a seven-point fourth has the Raptors talking proudly once again about their defence.

It added up to a 99-78 win, their third in a row which is rarefied air for this franchise. They haven’t won three in a row since Nov. 17-24, 2010, which was actually the beginning of a four-game winning streak that coincidentally enough started right here in the City of Brotherly Love.

The good feeling though came from once again proving to themselves and everyone else that they still have the ability to lock a team down.

When the line of post-game questions started off talking about the great offensive night the Raptors had, Jose Calderon quickly changed the direction of the conversation.

“It’s true we made some shots but they had a seven-point quarter,” Calderon said. “We did a good job stopping them. It was a more important game for them than us, but we fight every night. It was a great effort.”

Calderon knows the stakes are different for the Raptors and the teams like the Sixers who are playoff bound, but finishing strong still counts in his book and from the looks of it, for the majority of his teammates as well.

“We keep competing,” Calderon said. “Every guy in this room is getting better and improving. We have to finish as strong as possible.”

The seven-point fourth quarter will be remembered by the opposition as well. It’s the fewest points they have scored in any quarter since they moved over from the Spectrum.

Offensively the load was shared nicely with 24 from Andrea Bargnani, 18 from DeMar DeRozan, and 13 from Alan Anderson, who is coming to the end of his 10-day contract.

Anderson got the start in place of James Johnson who was held out of the game by Dwane Casey for what both men are calling an “internal matter.”

Casey said the move was as much about getting a good look at Anderson as it was about sending a message to Johnson.

Johnson, who politely declined to shed any more light on the situation, said it was a case of him “paying his dues.”

Johnson said he was unsure whether his debt had been paid.

“Whatever he thinks I deserve,” Johnson said. “I just have to deal with it like a man.”

A FEW BRUISES AND NICKS

As gratifying as it must have been to re-establish themselves defensively, the result did not come without a few casualties. Fortunately for the Raptors neither sounds very serious although Calderon is looking much scarier than he was before the game.

Calderon took an accidental Elton Brand elbow to the area above his right eye and needed four stitches to close the gash. The incident happened just before halftime but Calderon was back out there sporting a bandage to begin the second.

While he said the swelling above the eye hurt his peripheral vision a little — he joked he couldn’t see the ref counting the five seconds off as he tried to inbound the ball because the official was on his right side. Calderon wound up turning the ball over because of it — Calderon said it was important for him to return to the game.

The only problem is going to be explaining it to his parents, who are expected to be arriving in Toronto on Friday. Calderon looked like he had been on the losing end of a bar brawl after the game.

ANOTHER NEWBIE

ESPN’s Marc Stein was reporting Wednesday that the Raptors will add a third 10-day contract player to the roster on Friday. Point guard Justin Dentmon who had been playing for the D-League Austin Toros is expected to join the team Friday. He had been a up recently with the San Antonio Spurs on a 10-day contract.

The Raps have yet to announce whether current 10-dayers Ben Uzoh or Anderson will be brought back. It’s conceivable — they have room on the roster — to keep all three if they choose to do that.

QUICK HITS

Now here’s a name from the Raptors past. Dell Curry, while playing for the Charlotte Hornets in 1993-94 is the last NBA player to lead his team in scoring without making a single start. The Sixers’ Lou Williams is vying to become the next. Curry led the Hornets with 16.3 points playing in all but not starting a single of the 82 games. Williams thus far has played in all 52 (without a start) and is averaging 15.3 points, almost two more a night than Jrue Holiday.


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