Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

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Sixers-Raptors: 5 things you need to know

The Sixers (5-7) return home from their three-game road trip to face a division opponent for the first time this season when the Toronto Raptors come to town on Wednesday.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. (CSN) at the Wells Fargo Center.

Let’s take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Diving into the division
The Sixers are coming off a winless three-game road trip in which they lost by an average of 16.6 points. They’re also allowing a league-worst 109.9 points per game, and starting point guard Michael Carter-Williams is ailing with a bruised arch in his left foot.

Ready for the good news? The Sixers are still leading the miserable Atlantic Division.

The Atlantic is the only division in the entire NBA that doesn’t have at least one team with a .500 record. Coming into Wednesday, the Sixers are the only Atlantic team with a winning mark against other Eastern Conference opponents, at 4-3. Also, each of the five teams in the Atlantic have currently lost at least two games in a row.

While the Sixers have been reeling lately, this could be just the right time to open up division play against a Raptors team they have beaten in seven of the last nine meetings.

2. They’re free for a reason
Simply playing against other struggling teams won’t be enough for the Sixers. They will have to help themselves on the court and they can start at the free throw line.

While the Sixers are in the middle of the pack in both free throws attempted and free throw makes per game, they rank 23rd in percentage from the charity stripe at 71.1.

That number dropped during their recent road trip when they made 52 of 76 freebies (68.4 percent). A main contributor to that mark was guard Tony Wroten, who was 3 of 9 from the line in Monday’s loss to the Mavs. He is shooting just 55.3 percent on free throws this season.

“As hard as I try not to, it is in my head,” Wroten said after the loss to the Mavs. “I work so hard and they trust me to make free throws. But missing six free throws is unacceptable.”

The Sixers will need to improve their mark from the free throw line to make teams pay for fouling.

3. Watch the wings
The Sixers will have their hands full slowing down Toronto’s perimeter pair of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan.

While the Raptors rank 20th in the league in scoring at 96.9 points per game, Gay and DeRozan are prolific putting the ball in the net individually. Gay and DeRozan are averaging 20.6 and 20.5 points per game this season, respectively.

DeRozan has especially been on a tear in recent games. The 6-foot-7 guard scored 29 points in the Raptors’ loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday after tying his career high with 37 points against a defensive-minded Chicago Bulls team last Friday.

Gay had 30 points in that loss to the Blazers and appears to have found his rhythm after being traded to the Raptors at the deadline last season.

4. Injuries
Carter-Williams (foot) is day to day. He has missed the Sixers’ last four games.

Big men Nerlens Noel (knee), Kwame Brown (hamstring), Arnett Moultrie (ankle) and guard Jason Richardson are out.

Toronto forward Quincy Acy (ankle) is day to day and listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game.

5. This and that
• Evan Turner has averaged 8.2 points on 35 percent shooting in 11 career games against the Raptors.

• The Raptors are second in the league in offensive rebounding with 14.0 a game.

• The Sixers are averaging 4.4 fourth-quarter turnovers. They are averaging 17.3 giveaways a game, 24th in the NBA.

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

With T.J. McConnell, Hawks say Sixers have 'identity' worth respecting

ATLANTA – The final score was a little lopsided and the game was sloppy at times, but after beating Philadelphia, 110-93, Saturday night, the Hawks said they see promise in the rising young Sixers.

The Sixers didn’t have the legs on the tail end of back-to-back games to keep up with another hot team, and Joel Embiid did not play, as Atlanta (26-18) won for the 11th time in 13 games to move within a half game of Boston for the No. 3 spot in the East.

Yet if not for the Sixers' 21 turnovers and a second quarter where Atlanta seemed to make every shot, the Sixers (15-27) looked enough like the team that had won eight of 10 games before arriving in Philips Arena that the Hawks see differences.

The biggest change in the Sixers between Saturday and the first two meetings of the season between these two teams — one played with Embiid and one without — is T.J. McConnell starting at point guard rather than Sergio Rodriguez.

McConnell had a game-high 11 assists against the Hawks in addition to his eight points, and the Sixers had 27 assists on a night where they hit 12 of 29 three-pointers.

“They have an identity,” said Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore, who scored 16. “McConnell is playing really well, putting pressure on the defense and their floor spacing is very good. Very disciplined group.

“Guys are in the right spots, if a guy drives, they have a plethora of options: a guy in the corner, a guy on the jumper, a guy on the wing. They kept us honest for a chunk of the game.”

Ersan Ilyasova scored 21 points on 15 shots and Robert Covington added 15 points and 10 rebounds, but the Sixers were gassed in the second quarter, as the Hawks hit 16 of 23 shots in a 37-point period.

Atlanta stretched a 62-54 halftime lead to 18 points late in the third quarter, but the Sixers cut the deficit to 94-87 with 6:46 left in the game on a pair of free throws by rookie Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot.

The Sixers whipped the Hawks, 20-11, in fast break points.

“They were getting some threes in transition,” said Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer, who was on the Spurs' staff for years with Sixers head coach Brett Brown. “Right now, they’re pushing the pace.

“T.J. McConnell does a great job of getting outlets, getting up the court and finding shooters quickly and they’re letting it fly. Covington and Ilyasova and those guys are collapsing us early and shooting early threes.”

The Sixers had problems on the boards in Atlanta, where Dwight Howard grabbed 15 and Paul Millsap added 10 as the Hawks built a 48-38 rebounding edge. Those numbers were every bit as important as Millsap’s 21 points and the 13 added by Howard.

That disparity on the boards and the Sixers' collective loose handle did in the visitors. Atlanta scored 17 points off the Sixers’ 21 turnovers.

Embiid was scheduled to rest Saturday anyway. It’s unclear whether he’ll play Tuesday against the Clippers, who will be without guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, or Wednesday at Milwaukee.

Embiid suffered a knee contusion in Friday night’s 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers and Brown said he’d be further evaluated Sunday.

Get him back in the mix, and The Sixers have a shot at starting another winning streak.

“We did a good shot of holding them to one shot,” Howard said after the Hawks outscored the Sixers, 14-0, in second-chance points. “They play really hard. They play aggressive. They play good team basketball. They share the ball and find the open man. They have a good group of young guys.

“It wasn’t as easy as people expect out of Philly teams. You have to respect them.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich blasts President Trump

CLEVELAND — Gregg Popovich would bench President Donald Trump.

San Antonio's longtime coach, who has been highly critical of Trump in the past, went on a lengthy rant about the new president on Saturday night, calling him a bully and saying he hopes he can change while in office.

While meeting with reporters before the Spurs played the NBA champion Cavaliers, Popovich didn't hold back in offering his disdain for Trump and members of his administration.

Popovich initially was asked about his views on the women's marches in Washington and around the world before he unloaded on Trump.

"Their message is obvious," the five-time champion coach said of the protesters. "Our president comes in with the lowest (approval) rating of anybody whoever came into the office. And there's a majority of people out there, since Hillary (Clinton) won the popular vote, that don't buy his act. And I just wish that he was more -- had the ability to be more -- mature enough to do something that really is inclusive rather than just talking and saying, `I'm going to include everybody.'

"He could talk to the groups that he disrespected and maligned during the primary and really make somebody believe it. But so far, we've got (to) a point where you really can't believe anything that comes out of his mouth. You really can't."

As he said following Trump's election in November, Popovich wants Trump to succeed but believes he will do so only if he changes.

Popovich pointed out that Trump visited CIA headquarters on his first official day in office, but used the occasion to talk about himself.

"Instead of honoring the 117 people behind him where he was speaking, he talked about the size of the crowd," Popovich said. "That's worrisome. I'd just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It's dangerous and it doesn't do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there's a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it.

"And that respect has to be earned."

Popovich was also critical of those who don't hold Trump accountable for his words.

"It's hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we're watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people. And what really bothers me are the people around him: the Sean Spicers, the Kellyanne Conways, the Reince Priebuses that know who he is and actually have the cynical approach and disingenuous attitude to really defend him and try to make it look like he didn't say what he said.

"And so when he's mad at the media for them reporting what he said, that just boggles my mind."

Popovich said others would have been punished for some of the things Trump has said in the past, including when he mocked a reporter with a disability.

"If our children would've said it, we would have grounded him for six months," he said. "Without a doubt. But we ignore all that because, because why? That says something about all of us and that's what's dangerous, or that's what scares the hell out of me to this day. It makes me uneasy."

Popovich concluded his rant about Trump by decrying his inability to handle media criticism.

"It does boggle the mind how somebody can be so thin skinned," he said. "It's all obvious, it's about him. If anything affects him, if it's `Saturday Night Live' or `Hamilton,' or she got 3 more million votes than you. `They're illegal.' It doesn't matter what it is, there's a pattern there. And that's dangerous. I'd like to have someone with gravitas, but he got there through the electoral college, which is part of our system, and I hope he does some good things.

"There was a young lady on today who said, `I just wished he had gone up there and said something like, and I know I said certain things, or you know I would really like to bring the people who don't feel, or I know some of you are scared.' But he can't do that because bullies don't do that. That's why."