For 9 minutes, 12 seconds Sunday, the worst team in the Atlantic Division — and the NBA for that matter — was beating the division leader. But it was only a matter of when, not if, the Toronto Raptors would regain the lead and take command of the game.
They did 18 seconds later and never relinquished it en route to a 96-76 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers (1-24) on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Former University of Kentucky star Nerlens Noel suffered a game-ending corneal abrasion to his left eye when he was elbowed by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry with 3:15 left in the third quarter. The 6-foot-11 power forward was taken to an area hospital. Fifteen minutes after the game, Coach Brett Brown was not sure whether Noel would be able to fly on the team plane to Chicago. The Sixers (1-24) will face the Chicago Bulls on Monday at the United Center.
“We didn’t think that was wise because of the pressure on the airplane,” the coach said.
Brown said he did not think Noel would stay overnight in Toronto but was unsure as to whether the player would suit up against the Bulls.
Lowry received a technical foul. Noel finished with two points, five rebounds, four assists, and a blocked shot.
Jahlil Okafor had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, the rookie’s third straight game scoring at least 20 points.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (16-9) with 25 points and eight rebounds. Forward Luis Scola added 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting in just 27 minutes. Lowry had 16 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
The Sixers pulled within six points with 7:16 to play, But the Raptors closed out the game with a 19-5 run.