Instant Replay: Raptors 108, Sixers 98

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Instant Replay: Raptors 108, Sixers 98

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The Sixers welcomed Michael Carter-Williams back to their starting lineup on Wednesday after the rookie spent the previous four games sidelined with a bruised arch in his left foot.

While Carter-Williams was added back, Thaddeus Young missed the game because of personal reasons.

With that said, it didn’t matter who was on the floor for the Sixers as no one could slow down the Toronto Raptors in a 108-98 loss. The defeat was the Sixers’ fourth in a row and dropped their record to 5-8.

The Raptors made 14 threes in the win to overtake the Sixers for first place in the Atlantic Division.

Turning point
The Sixers cut their deficit down to six points with 2:53 to play in the third quarter. The Raptors proceeded to go on a 17-7 run to close out the quarter and take a 16-point advantage into the final period.

Follow the leader
DeMar DeRozan has been on an absolute tear against the Sixers in recent games.

Prior to Wednesday, DeRozan had scored 29 and 27 in his last two matchups against the Sixers. He outdid himself on Wednesday when he poured in 33 while making 10 of 19 shots.

Rudy Gay added 18 points, eight rebounds and eight assists.

Spencer Hawes had his eighth double-double of the season with a season-high 28 points and 10 rebounds. Hawes was 7 of 7 from the field through three quarters before finishing 10 of 13 for the game.

Carter-Williams scored 10 points on 2 of 10 shooting in his first game back. He also had six rebounds, six assists and six to go with a couple of blocks.

Stat-egic
The Raptors came into the game among the NBA leaders by averaging 14 offensive rebounds per game. The Sixers limited them to nine.

Toronto is also first in the NBA in second-chance points and the Sixers held them to seven such points on 2 of 5 shooting.

Take a bow
Kyle Lowry treated his Raptors teammates to a home-cooked meal Tuesday night prepared by his mom and his wife. Lowry, a Philadelphia native who attended Cardinal Dougherty High School and then Villanova, also had his local barber on hand for anyone that desired a haircut.

Lowry scored 13 points and handed out 10 assists in front of his friends and family during Wednesday night’s win.

What’s next?
The Sixers host the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night. Heading into Wednesday, the Bucks had the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 2-7.

The Bucks are 28th in the league in scoring with just 90.2 points per game. On the flip side, they allow and they allow the opposition to score 98.7 points a contest.

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

Joel Embiid: All-Star voting 'shows fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid didn’t earn enough overall votes to be named an All-Star starter, but he has no disappointment about the outpour of fan appreciation he received during the campaign.

“It shows that the fans support me, that’s why I’m not even mad,” Embiid said after shootaround on Friday. “The fans are going stick up for who they love, and I love that.”

Embiid finished third among frontcourt players in fan votes behind only LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo, which counted for 50 percent of the votes this season. He made a late push after trailing Kevin Love for third place in the second return of votes last week.

“They’re behind me and they want me to succeed,” Embiid said. “That’s what I took from it.”

Embiid ranked fifth in media votes (25 percent), but there was a drop-off in the player votes (25 percent). Embiid was eighth in player voting, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Carmelo Anthony and Love.

Embiid is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. He is under a 28-minute restriction this season and sits out one matchup of each back-to-back series. Veteran Gerald Henderson believes Embiid’s lack of games was a factor the player votes.

“I feel like since all the players vote, it’s probably important for you to play consistent and let all the players see night to night how good you are,” Henderson said. “I think that’s the difference. You’ll see Joel’s numbers are better than a lot of guys, but because some guys have been doing it year after year consistently and guys have seen how good they are, it helps them. I think if Joel continues to play like he’s been playing, he’ll earn everybody’s respect.” 

Embiid saw the competitiveness of the frontcourt race as a sign the league should revert back to the previous voting format which included centers. He has been advocating for that the entire season as he’s faced high-caliber players on the court.

“There’s a lot of talented big men in the league, especially at the center position,” Embiid said. “That’s something the NBA should think about, putting the center back on the All-Star ballot.”

Part of Embiid’s All-Star push centered around his opportunity to land a date with an unnamed celebrity if named a starter. So what happens now if he gets in as a reserve next week from the coach’s votes?

“I don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to have to figure that out.”

In spite of battling illness, Embiid plans to play Friday in front of the home crowd that was behind him during the voting process.

"I feel pretty sick still but I’ll be fine," he said. "I've been coughing a lot, sneezing, headaches, sinuses, can’t really breathe. But I'm fine."

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright amazed by Joel Embiid's improvements since Kansas

Jay Wright remembers facing Joel Embiid's Kansas team, and he's shocked by the improvements Embiid made while sitting out the last two years.

"Could you imagine not playing for two years and getting better?" Wright said Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad. "We played against him in college and he was not close — he was good but not close to the player that he was at the start of this year. 

"What [the Sixers'] staff did while he was out is incredible. I don't know what other pro athlete has done that or could do that — not play and improve drastically.

"He's a unique force. We haven't seen a guy that's got this will defensively and ability defensively and then the skill level and mobility offensively. I've heard some people compare him to (Hakeem) Olajuwon. He's far more mobile than Olajuwon. Olajuwon, offensively, had his set of skills, which [Embiid] will develop. But the mobility he's got far exceeds Olajuwon. He's exciting. ... It's nice to feel this vibe with the Sixers right now."

Wright was also asked if he, as a coach, would want a player on a minutes restriction participating in the All-Star Game.

"Yeah, I would," he said. "I think that it's such an accomplishment for Joel Embiid. It would build his confidence so much to be on the floor with those guys and realize he's earned this. And to have that a part of his psyche going into the next season — 'OK, I've already been separated during the regular season with those guys, I belong with those guys.' So next year I'm thinking, 'I wanna beat these guys, I wanna be better than these guys.' 

"I think it'll be great for him. I think it's awesome ... what Brett Brown and his staff have done with this guy."

As lucky as good?
With a national championship and another No. 1 ranking this season, it would be understandable if Wright was feeling himself right about now. 'Nova is 17-1 and back atop the AP poll after a brief stint at No. 3.

National Player of the Year candidate Josh Hart is leading the way for the Wildcats with 18.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. A lot of Villanova's success this season is owed to Hart's decision to return for his senior year, so Wright has no issue admitting there's been some luck involved in the Wildcats' recent success.

"It's a tremendous advantage and it's really been probably the most important factor in our success the last three, four years," Wright said of 'Nova's senior leadership Friday on TCN's Breakfast on Broad.

"A lot of it is, on Villanova's side, luck. Josh Hart could have left last year. He just looked at it and kind of said, 'I could be maybe a late first-round, early [second-round pick]. I'd rather come back and get my degree.' 

"Having people that make that choice, you're lucky. If we lose him last year, we're a lot younger team this year. Daniel Ochefu the year before was faced with that decision. He stayed. 

"So when you get those guys that decide they're gonna stay, you catch a break because they're invaluable, a senior of that level. Daniel's playing in the NBA now. So we had a guy for a year that was an NBA player. And we have that with Josh this year. Kris (Jenkins) is developing into one, Darryl (Reynolds) has a chance."

Villanova, which destroyed Seton Hall 76-46 on Monday, hosts Providence Saturday at noon.