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.

NBA Notes: Magic Johnson takes over Lakers, trades Lou Williams

NBA Notes: Magic Johnson takes over Lakers, trades Lou Williams

With the Los Angeles Lakers mired in the worst years in franchise history, owner Jeanie Buss has turned to Magic Johnson to lead them back to championship contention.

And she removed her own brother from his job to do it.

Jeanie Buss fired general manager Mitch Kupchak on Tuesday and put Johnson in charge of basketball operations. Jim Buss also was dismissed as the Lakers' executive vice president of basketball operations in a major shake-up of the struggling team's front office.

Jim Buss retains his ownership stake in the team, but Jeanie Buss has final say under the structure set up by their late father, Jerry Buss. She used it to chart a new course for the 16-time NBA champion franchise, which has the NBA's third-worst record at 19-39.

The Lakers are almost certain to miss the playoffs for a team-record fourth straight season, and they posted the worst record in team history during each of the previous three years.

"It was such a hard to decision to make, that I probably waited too long," Jeanie Buss said in an interview on Spectrum SportsNet, the Lakers' television network. "For that, I apologize to Laker fans. Now, with clarity and direction, and after talking with Earvin, a change was needed" (see full story).

Lakers: Deal reached to trade Williams to Rockets
The Los Angeles Lakers have swung their first deal of the Magic Johnson Era, agreeing to send Lou Williams to the Houston Rockets for Corey Brewer and a future draft pick.

Brewer's agent Wallace Prather confirmed the terms of the trade, which were first reported Tuesday by Yahoo Sports. Neither team immediately revealed the trade publicly.

"Thanx for the love L.A., I've enjoyed my stay," Williams wrote on Twitter.

Williams led the Lakers in scoring at 18.6 points per game, playing off the bench. Brewer was averaging 4.2 points for Houston.

The trade came hours after the Lakers announced the firing of general manager Mitch Kupchak and put Johnson in charge of basketball operations -- part of a massive front office shake-up.

And while the draft pick will help the Lakers' future, the Rockets just got deeper (see full story).

Grizzlies: Healthy roster for stretch run
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies' latest injury reports need a second glance, they appear a bit suspect.

Nobody is listed as hurt or nursing an injury. If someone is out, it's simply for rest.

No knee problems requiring forward Chandler Parsons to sit. No ankle issues for reserve forward Brandan Wright. No lingering problems from point guard Mike Conley's broken back earlier this season, and no more groin issues for defensive stalwart Tony Allen.

There's not even foot problems for All-Star center Marc Gasol.

Having no injuries to report is a relief for a team that has been hit hard the last two years. The Grizzlies are 34-24 and sixth in the Western Conference heading down the stretch.

"I think our chemistry is starting to come," forward Zach Randolph said. "Guys are starting to fill into their roles and starting to play a lot better, especially on the defensive end."

It was just a year ago on Feb. 20, 2016, that Gasol had season-ending surgery to repair his broken right foot, sending the Grizzlies spiraling into a historical season for injuries that finished with Memphis using an NBA-record 28 players . Memphis limped into its sixth consecutive playoff appearance and was mercifully swept out of the first round by the San Antonio Spurs (see full story).

Report: Jahlil Okafor 'will get moved by Thursday'

Report: Jahlil Okafor 'will get moved by Thursday'

Will Jahlil Okafor be traded?

That is the big question surrounding the Sixers as Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline inches closer.

According to one report, there’s already an answer.

Appearing on NBA TV Tuesday night, NBA.com’s David Aldridge said Okafor “will get moved by Thursday.”

Aldridge, who said the Sixers have “a lot of offers to sift through,” mentioned the Pacers and Kings as potential landing spots. Following the DeMarcus Cousins trade, Sacramento is left with Kosta Koufos and Willie Cauley-Stein, who aren't offensive bigs. Koufos is averaging 6.1 points in 57 games this season, while Cauley-Stein is scoring 5.8 per game in his second NBA season.

“[The Kings] can offer more minutes and more opportunities for [Okafor] now,” Aldridge said.

According to multiple reports earlier on Tuesday, the Pacers have emerged as a suitor in the Okafor trade talks. Indiana is 29-28 and in sixth place of the Eastern Conference, but only a game ahead of Chicago — also a reported Okafor suitor — and two in front of Detroit.

Through a trying season, the Sixers’ second-year big man is averaging 11.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 23 minutes per game. He’s played in 38 contests, 22 of which he has started after playing 53 games (48 starts) as a rookie and averaging 17.5 points and seven rebounds.