76ers-Raptors Preview

It wasn't long ago when the Toronto Raptors were riding high atop the Eastern Conference. Now they're in need of a serious spark following another loss on a six-game homestand.

That help could be on the way with the possible return of second-leading scorer DeMar DeRozan.

The shooting guard is expected to be a game-time decision as the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors try to avoid their sixth defeat in seven games Wednesday night against the improving Philadelphia 76ers.

DeRozan played a key role in Toronto's 13-2 start, averaging 20.7 points over the first 15 games. However, he hasn't played since sustaining a tear to his left adductor longus tendon in a loss to Dallas on Nov. 28.

The Raptors owned the East's best record while winning 11 of their first 15 without DeRozan. They've lost five of six since then, however, giving up 112.8 points per game in the last five to fall behind Atlanta and Washington.

A 114-11 loss to Detroit on Monday was Toronto's second in three games on its homestand after a 14-3 start at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors (25-12) rank among the league's best with just 12.2 turnovers per game, but committed 19 against the Pistons.

Kyle Lowry scored 10 on 3-of-12 shooting with seven giveaways Monday after averaging 24.8 points and 2.8 turnovers while hitting 22 of 54 (40.7 percent) from 3-point range over his previous eight games.

"You're going to go through things and go through (bad) stretches in an 82-game season," coach Dwane Casey said. "How we learn from it and how we bounce back from it is going to be huge."

Casey's club, though, could get a boost if DeRozan is able to return from his 21-game absence against the 76ers (7-30).

DeRozan had 24 points on 8-of-12 shooting as Toronto shot 56.6 percent while limiting Philadelphia to a 37.9 percent in a 120-88 home win Nov. 9. He's averaging 27.0 points over a five-game winning streak in the series.

"It could be (against the 76ers) or the next game," Casey said. "It'll depend on what the doctors let him know."

The 76ers, who opened the season with 17 straight losses, have surrendered 113.0 points per game during their skid versus Toronto. They allowed an average of 92.3 points while winning three of four before Tuesday's 105-87 loss to the Hawks.

"To have to go on a plane and now go to Canada and play another hell of a team - that's the nature of our beast," coach Brett Brown said. "You've got to wake up and you have to back it up."

Michael Carter-Williams, who had 20 points and nine rebounds, missed the first meeting with Toronto due to a shoulder injury. He totaled 39 points, 13 assists and 12 boards in the last two matchups last season.

Tony Wroten, averaging a team-best 16.9 points, isn't expected to play after he suffered a right knee sprain against the Hawks. That certainly doesn't help matters for a Philadelphia team that hasn't reached 100 points in its last 14 games.

"I don't believe he'll make the trip, so we're reduced to Michael and Jakarr (Sampson) and off we go," Brown said.

Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas looks to stay hot after scoring a career-best 31 on 14-of-15 shooting Monday. The big man has averaged 19.3 points on 67.3 percent shooting over his past four games.

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