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.

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

Best of NBA: Rockets overcome Russell Westbrook's 7th straight triple-double

OKLAHOMA CITY -- James Harden scored 21 points, and the Houston Rockets overcame Russell Westbrook's seventh consecutive triple-double to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 102-99 on Friday night.

Harden also had 12 assists and nine rebounds to help the Rockets win their fifth straight. Houston withstood Harden's 6-for-23 shooting effort.

Westbrook finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He has the longest triple-double streak since Michael Jordan had seven straight in 1989. The most in a row is nine by Philadelphia's Wilt Chamberlain in March 1968.

It was Westbrook's 12th triple-double this season and the 49th of his career. He is the NBA's active leader in the category and ranks sixth all-time.

The Thunder had won the previous six games during Westbrook's triple-double binge (see full story).

James moves into 9th on scoring list as Cavs top Heat
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 27 points to move into ninth place on the NBA scoring list, and the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Miami Heat 114-84 on Friday night.

James passed Elvin Hayes on a driving layup with 6:58 remaining and has 27,315 career points. The four-time MVP was removed about a minute later and received a loud ovation from the Cleveland crowd.

Kevin Love, a game-time decision because of back spasms, scored a team-high 28 points and had 15 rebounds for the Cavaliers. He missed the morning shootaround but was in the lineup after warming up on the court about an hour before tip-off.

Kyrie Irving added 23 points for the Cavs, who have won three straight after losing three in a row.

Derrick Williams scored 17 points to lead the short-handed Heat, who have lost four straight (see full story). 

Schroder has career-high 33, Hawks rally past Bucks
MILWAUKEE -- Dennis Schroder scored a career-high 33 points and the Atlanta Hawks rallied from 20 down in the second half to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks 114-110 on Friday night.

Paul Millsap had 23 points and 14 rebounds for Atlanta. Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 18.

The Hawks, who ended a seven-game losing streak Wednesday with a win over Miami, trailed by 20 at halftime. A 40-point third quarter put them back in the game.

Jabari Parker scored 27 for Milwaukee. Giannis Antetokounmpo, in foul trouble throughout the game, had 14.

Atlanta pulled ahead 105-103 on Kyle Korver's jumper with 3:15 remaining, giving the Hawks their first lead since early in the game (see full story). 

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."