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.
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.