Young, Speights lift Sixers over Raptors

Raptors' DeMar DeRozan is fouled by Sixers' Evan Turner (right) as Spencer Hawes looks on during first half.
Raptors' DeMar DeRozan is fouled by Sixers' Evan Turner (right) as Spencer Hawes looks on during first half.
Posted: January 27, 2011

TORONTO - Following his 24-point, seven-rebound performance against the Phoenix Suns earlier this week, 76ers forward Thaddeus Young was gleaming in the locker room because for the first time in many games, he was playing against smaller, faster forwards.

The bruising and banging that Young usually has to endure against the more sturdy power forwards wasn't there Monday, and Young reaped the benefits.

Last night at the Air Canada Centre, Raptors center Andrea Bargnani was filling up the score sheet in the first quarter, as he usually does against the Sixers, and the Raptors were having their way offensively.

Then coach Doug Collins inserted Young and the Sixers immediately disposed of the hosts' nine-point lead. And it wasn't because of Young's offense, it was his defense that was the key.

Collins tabbed Young to stop Bargnani, and that he did in limiting him to one deep three-pointer during their matchup in the second quarter, when the Sixers evened the game at 50. It didn't hurt that the Sixers made eight of their first 10 shots, either.

"You have to get up and guard him at the three-point line," Collins said of Bargnani. "There's a misconception about the Toronto team. Everybody thinks Toronto is a perimeter shooting team. They're fourth in the league in points in the paint. And so we wanted to take away the paint. We knew in situations with Bargnani we wanted to crowd him, get up on his right hand, make him dribble the ball and make him shoot two-point shots outside the paint. And Thad's quickness bothers him."

While Young was suffocating Bargnani, Marreese Speights was filling it up on the offensive end, scoring 13 straight points in a 6-minute, 32-second span. Speights finished the second quarter with 17 points, contributing to a very productive first half by the Sixers' centers. Starter Spencer Hawes had four beautiful assists in the first, all on backdoor cuts. For the half, he also grabbed four rebounds.

"I went out with a lot of confidence so I just brought that," said Speights, who finished with a season-high 23 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a little over 17 minutes. "When the ball's going in it's always good for me and my teammates. It was going in and I was playing better defense.

"I saw that they were playing zone and I watched during the first quarter [from the bench] to see what I could do to get some buckets. I went out there and rolled."

For the night, the Sixers used the backdoor more and better than a sneaky teenager.

"I was watching the Spurs and the Toronto game and one of the sets [the Spurs] run, we run," Collins said. "Toronto was struggling stopping it when they played zone so we ran that play almost the entire second quarter. Our big guys are doing a much better job at passing. We work at it every day against zones with big guys X-ing and high-low passing and working together. They've got a pretty good feel for one another."

The Sixers took an eight-point lead, 60-52, early in the third when Hawes hit Andre Iguodala sneaking to the basket for a slam. Then Iguodala made a gorgeous behind-the-back pass to a cutting Elton Brand for another easy layup.

The Raptors, who lost their ninth straight, smartened up a little and started packing things in defensively a little tighter, but Lou Williams broke that scheme wide open by hitting four long-range bombs, including three treys en route to 11 points in the third.

In the fourth quarter, the Sixers did what they needed to do against a struggling team - they picked up the intensity, played at a faster pace and upped their led to as many as 14.

The Sixers had a balanced scoring effort in winning their third straight and improving to 20-25. Iguodala (six assists, five rebounds) and Williams each scored 15, while Jrue Holiday also had 15 points to go with 11 assists. Brand finished with 14 and Young and Evan Turner each added 10.

After a first quarter in which they made only eight of 22 from the field, the Sixers shot 36-for-67 (53.7 percent) over the final three quarters.

Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan, who will compete in next month's slam-dunk contest at the All-Star Game, played like an All-Star, going for a game-high 29 points. Bargnani chipped in 17, while Amir Johnson had 15.

Six shots

Andrea Bargnani had scored 54 points in the first two games against the Sixers this season. He left briefly during the first quarter after jamming a toe, but quickly returned . . . Lou Williams made his first shot of the game on a backdoor pass from Spencer Hawes. It was significant because Williams was 1-for-18 against the Raptors this season before that shot. He finished the game 6-for-10 from the floor . . . Trey Johnson hit a three-pointer for the Raptors with 6:26 left in the second quarter. That was the Raptors' first trey in two games. They had their NBA-record streak of 986 games with at least one trey snapped on Monday against Memphis . . . Due to injuries, Toronto has dressed 20 different players this season . . . Because of the inclement weather in Philadelphia, the team charter didn't leave after the game. It was scheduled to leave this morning.

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