Toronto (21-57) at Philadelphia (40-39)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Thursday, Apr 7, 2011 Tipoff: 7:00 pm EDT Fri Apr 8, 2011

The Philadelphia 76ers had plenty of trouble defending Andrea Bargnani(notes) in two losses to the Toronto Raptors this season, so it’s not surprising they won the one time they contained him.

The 76ers may have the luxury of not facing Bargnani on Friday night against the visiting Raptors when they continue their pursuit of the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Bargnani has excelled in helping Toronto (21-57) win six of its last eight against Philadelphia (40-39), averaging 20.1 points on 52.6 percent shooting. He averaged 27.0 points in two wins over the 76ers in November before being limited to 17 in a 107-94 home loss Jan. 26.

The Raptors’ leading scorer has missed four of the last six games due to a sore right ankle. Bargnani and fellow starter Amir Johnson(notes) (ankle) sat out Wednesday’s 104-96 home loss to Cleveland.

Their absences would boost Philadelphia’s chances of handing Toronto a seventh straight road loss and 21st in 22 games.

The 76ers fell one-half game behind New York in the race for the East’s No. 6 seed after a 97-92 home loss to the Knicks on Wednesday. Philadelphia rallied from 19 down to take a late one-point lead before losing its third straight.

“How many times did it look like our guys were just dead in the water tonight? Typical 76ers team of this year,” coach Doug Collins said. “Fought, fought, fought. Somehow, we had a one-point lead.”

The Sixers haven’t lost four straight since a five-game slide Nov. 10-17. This losing streak has featured 40.3 percent shooting by Philadelphia, with Jrue Holiday(notes) in a rut of 30.6 percent in that span and Andre Iguodala(notes) at 33.3.

“We haven’t shot the ball well,” Collins said. “I told our guys to stop worrying about our shooting. Let’s guard and everything else will take care of itself.”

Elton Brand(notes) has been the most consistent Sixer in the last three games, averaging 18.7 points on 57.8 percent shooting. He has made an impact on both ends of the court with 26 rebounds and nine blocks in those games.

“I’m playing hard,” Brand said. “That’s what we hang our hats on, playing defense. Those shots will come.”

Brand and the Sixers will try to keep a body on Reggie Evans(notes), averaging 18.0 rebounds in two games against his former team.

The short-handed Raptors, however, do not look too threatening after being blown out by halftime in consecutive losses. They trailed by 24 through two quarters of Tuesday’s 131-118 loss at New York before falling behind 60-40 at the break in Wednesday’s defeat.

“It’s been a repeated thing this year, sometimes we just come out and start slow,” guard Jerryd Bayless(notes) said. “We put ourselves in a 20, 25-point hole in these first halves, it’s tough to come back from that.”

DeMar DeRozan’s(notes) stellar five-game stretch provides some hope for the future for Toronto. The second-year swingman is averaging 25.0 points in that span, and he scored 29 in the loss to the Sixers in January.

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Friday, Apr 8