Raptors beat up on tired 76ers

Raptors' Amir Johnson drives to the hoop past two 76ers defenders during the first half at the Air...

Raptors' Amir Johnson drives to the hoop past two 76ers defenders during the first half at the Air Canada Centre last night. (Fred Thornhill/REUTERS)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:57 PM ET

It wasn’t the way the game was billed but what Toronto basketball fans were treated to on Wednesday night was a mostly disinterested team up against a flat-out fatigued one and the early results were predictable.

At least the visiting Sixers had an excuse. They were playing their fourth set of back-to-back games, most of those on the road following an eight-game trip.

As for the Raptors, it was once again a case of failing to seize the moment ... at least it was until a fired up Jose Calderon came out in the third quarter and helped put a 10-point wedge between his Raptors and the Sixers on the way to a 90-72 win.

Calderon’s 10 points came in 11 minutes and were punctuated by at least a half dozen of those Calderon bellows and scowls as he seemed to be the one Raptors player on the floor who realized what a golden opportunity the Raptors were in the process of turning down.

And make no mistake about it, the moment has arrived with the schedule maker providing the Raptors a rare three-game gimme (no team will call it that but we will). That’s three home games in a row against teams at or below them in the standings and a rare opportunity to make some hay.

Calderon finished the night with 14 points and 11 assists — one of three Raptors with a double-double — but until he decided to take this one into his own hands, it was a game that had all the signs of a major letdown.

Philadelphia was a dog-tired team a night earlier at home against Brooklyn and certainly didn’t look any more refreshed Wednesday night.

But for whatever reason the Raptors failed to take advantage. The Sixers were hanging around throughout that first quarter. The Raptors offence, that would at times seem so crisp, would go into a funk and wind up with a lot of late possession shots that had no hope of finding the mark.

The Raptors scoring was shared across the board with DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson sharing the team lead with 19. They were followed closely by 17 from Ed Davis and the 14 by Calderon.

The starting five Wednesday night had a bit of a new/old look to it with Landry Fields back among the starters for the first time since Nov. 7 in Dallas before he had ulnar nerve transposition surgery on his right elbow.

Fields replaced Mickael Pietrus who Casey admitted was having trouble coming back into games after starting the game and then sitting down for an extended period of time.

Fields energy both rebounding the basketball and running the floor has earned him the starting minutes in Casey’s opinion.

Ironically what stood out in his return to the small forward position after seeing some time at power forward off the bench was his rebounding. Fields pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds and with a late bucket got his first double-double as a Raptor with 10 points as well.

Casey, though, is most interested in the tempo Fields’ play brings to the court.

“Just his energy,” Casey said of the reasoning for the change. In (Pietrus’) defence having him play those first minutes and then having him come back in the third quarter is not really fair to him. It’s not fair to get him cranked up again after he has sat so long. We are trying to keep that energy going and (Fields) brings tremendous energy defensively and cutting without the ball. And his passing. He’s one of our best passers also.”

 

 


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