A couple of lineup changes appear to have helped the Toronto Raptors stay in position to make the playoffs.
The Raptors look to win three in a row for the first time in nearly two months as they visit the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday.
A 4-13 slump that stretched into late March has made Toronto’s bid to return to the playoffs more difficult than it could have been. But the Raptors (37-37) have since won two straight, gaining some momentum as they try to hold off Chicago for the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto has a chance to win three straight for the first time since Feb. 3-10. Two days after winning 103-101 at Charlotte, the Raptors beat the Los Angeles Clippers 114-92 on Wednesday night behind steady performances from their two newest starters.
Sonny Weems(notes), in his fourth game since replacing rookie DeMar DeRozan(notes) at guard, shot 8 for 8 and had 17 points while adding five rebounds and four assists. Weems, in his second season, is shooting 70.4 percent since moving into a starting role.
“I think Sonny was a guy earlier this year who was maybe going to be a role player on this team,” coach Jay Triano said. “But the kid comes back every night and works on his jump shot with DeMar. He works hard every day in practice and gives us something we don’t have.”
After appearing in 12 games as a rookie with Denver last season, Weems isn’t taking the added responsibility for granted.
“You never get used to that because you can be pulled out pretty fast,” said Weems, acquired in an offseason trade with Milwaukee after the Nuggets dealt him. “I’m just glad that I’m getting the opportunity to play and show my talent.”
Forward Antoine Wright(notes) also has started four straight games in place of Hedo Turkoglu(notes). Wright is averaging 6.2 points, but had 11 in his last contest and has posted double figures in five of seven.
Turkoglu, a disappointment after being acquired in a trade with Orlando in July, has come off the bench the last two games after missing two. He was a healthy scratch Sunday against Miami following reports he was seen out on the town hours after missing Friday’s loss to Denver with a stomach virus.
Philadelphia (26-49) has had to make some rotation changes of its own, but it has been out of necessity. The Sixers dressed nine players - one more than the required minimum - in a 103-84 loss to Charlotte on Wednesday night.
Rodney Carney(notes) sat out after injuring a toe in a 111-93 loss to Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. Thaddeus Young(notes) (thumb) has missed eight straight games and Louis Williams(notes) (back) has been out five in a row.
All three players are listed as day to day.
“You don’t feel like you’re short-handed when guys are competing,” coach Eddie Jordan said.
Jordan also has had to limit leading scorer Andre Iguodala’s(notes) minutes due to a lingering right foot injury. Iguodala, averaging 17.1 points, is trying to play in all 82 games for the fifth time in six seasons.
Iguodala is shooting 70.6 percent over his last three games, but he’s averaging 13.7 points on 37.1 percent shooting in three contests against the Raptors this season.
Toronto leads the series 2-1.