Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

Fresh off a resounding victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night, the last-place Sixers host the first-place Toronto Raptors in an Atlantic Division showdown.

Here are a few things to keep in mind for Friday’s game:

1. First place
The Raptors are 21-20 and are one of five teams with a winning record in the Eastern Conference and the lone team over .500 in the Atlantic. But since winning eight of 10 and 10 of 13, the Raptors have struggled to put wins together.

In the last five games, the Raptors are 2-3 with losses to the Celtics, Lakers and Bobcats while averaging 94.2 points per game in that span.

However, first place still carries some cachet (along with playoff seeding) and for a team that hasn’t been in the playoffs since 2008 and has one Atlantic Division title in its 19 seasons, Toronto isn’t taking the standings for granted.

2. Recent history
The Raptors handled the Sixers in both games this season, scoring 108 points in each. The first meeting featured 14 three-pointers from the Raptors followed by 10 more in the second game.

Shooting at the league average 35.9 percent from three-point range, the Raptors are shooting a robust 44 percent from long range against the Sixers.

Still neither team shoots too well from mid-range and beyond. On shots longer than 16 feet, the Raptors are hitting at a 36.7 percent clip this season, while the Sixers shoot 34 percent.

3. The hot hand?
The Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan and the Sixers’ Evan Turner go into the game riding career nights. DeRozan torched the Mavericks for 40 points on 15 for 22 shooting, while Turner scored a career-high 34 at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

The trick for both players will be to turn a hot game into a streak. DeRozan has been pretty consistent in stringing together big performances this season. He’s scored 30-plus in four games and 25-plus in 16 games. More importantly, DeRozan averages 21.6 points in the game after a 25-plus points outing.

In the game after his seven 25-plus points games, Turner averages 14.9.

Turner needs to develop some consistency as the go-to scorer for the Sixers. However, it’s worth noting that Turner followed up his lone 30-point performance with 20 points against the Spurs on Nov. 11.

4. The rookie
No player on the Sixers has been more scrutinized this season than Michael Carter-Williams. That’s for good reason, too. After all, not only is Carter-Williams the team’s building block, but also he’s lapping the field in the 2013-14 Rookie of the Year race.

Some have suggested that Carter-Williams may be hitting the so-called “rookie wall.” Most notably, this subject arose following a seven-point, five-turnover game against the Heat and a 5 for 22 shooting performance in a loss against the Bulls.

Nevertheless, the rookie followed up that rough stretch with 31 points, six rebounds and five assists on 13 for 22 shooting against Washington on Monday, and 19 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists against the Knicks on Wednesday.

If that’s the wall, Carter-Williams has negotiated his way around it.

5. Injuries
Arnett Moultrie (ankle) still has not returned, though he has practiced with the team.

Tony Wroten (ankle) missed the last two games, but could return this weekend.

Brandon Davies (finger) is out after breaking his right pinky finger in Chicago last Saturday.

Jason Richardson (knee) and Nerlens Noel (knee) are out.

For the Raptors, Tyler Hansbrough (ankle) is out indefinitely.

Landry Fields had surgery on his wrist this week and is expected to miss the next few weeks.

Source: Sixers to sign veteran point guard Jerryd Bayless

Source: Sixers to sign veteran point guard Jerryd Bayless

The Sixers have been in need of a veteran point guard, and it looks like they have found one on the first day of free agency.

A league source confirmed the Sixers have reached a deal to sign guard Jerryd Bayless. According to the Associated Press, the deal is worth $27 million over three years.  

Bayless, 27, is entering his ninth NBA season. Last season he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, averaging 10.4 points, 3.1 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game. Bayless shot 42.3 percent from the field and a career-high 43.7 percent from three. He ranked fifth in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage last season.

The point guard role is unique for the Sixers. First overall pick Ben Simmons can play point-forward. While the Sixers will start him out at the four spot, eventually he will assume some point guard responsibilities as he develops in the NBA. Bayless is a good fit for this situation because he doesn't need to dominate the ball. He also gives the Sixers versatility in the backcourt with his ability to shoot. 

The Sixers have struggled to find consistency at this position. Last season they went through a pool of point guards before trading for Ish Smith in December. That acquisition wasn’t meant as a long-term solution, and Smith reportedly agreed to a three-year deal with the Pistons on Friday.

The Sixers will be Bayless' seventh team. He previously played for the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Raptors, Grizzlies, Celtics and Bucks. Bayless was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft.

When Bayless played in Toronto in 2010-11 and 2011-12, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo was the Raptors' president and general manager. This is Colangelo's first free agent signing with the Sixers. 

Source: Sixers to hire former head coach Jim O'Brien as assistant

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AP

Source: Sixers to hire former head coach Jim O'Brien as assistant

The Sixers are going to hire former head coach Jim O'Brien as an assistant coach on Brett Brown's staff, a league source confirmed to CSNPhilly.com's Jessica Camerato. 

FOX29's Howard Eskin was the first to report the hire. 

O'Brien, 64, was the Sixers' head coach back in 2004-05, when he led the team to a 43-39 record. He was the Celtics' head coach from 2000-2004 and the Pacers' head coach from 2007-2011. In his nine years as an NBA head coach, he has a 303-327 record. 

O'Brien, who is from Philadelphia and went to Roman Catholic, last coached in the NBA as an assistant with the Dallas Mavericks in 2012-13. 

Report: Point guard Ish Smith agrees to 3-year deal with Pistons

Report: Point guard Ish Smith agrees to 3-year deal with Pistons

It seemed like Ish Smith had more value to the Sixers than to another team, but the Detroit Pistons thought otherwise, reaching a three-year deal with the free-agent point guard early Friday morning, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Smith, 28, will be Reggie Jackson's backup with the Pistons.

Smith averaged 14.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 7.0 assists in 50 games for the Sixers last season. He shot 41 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and 67 percent from the line.

The Pistons will be the 10th NBA team in seven seasons for the well-traveled Smith.

The Sixers have an obvious need for guards. They exercised their option to keep shooting guard Hollis Thompson, but lost Smith and chose not to extend an offer to Isaiah Cannan, who became an unrestricted free agent.