In double-overtime on Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors squeaked out a 119-116 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, electrifying about 12,000 fans who barely filled the Air Canada Center for the preseason game -- except with their roars.
Both teams were facing their second of back-to-back games: the Raptors coming off a 109-90 loss to Chicago; the Sixers sitting at 1-3 after their first preseason victory against Boston on Tuesday. The win brought their record to two and two midway through the 2010-2011 preseason.
Here's what went down at the Air Canada Centre.
The starters: While the preseason has not been kind to Andrea Bargnani, he remains the only Raptor with a guaranteed spot on the starting roster. Head coach Jay Triano continued to experiment with different combinations, starting the 24-year-old Italian at center alongside point guard Jarrett Jack, shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, small forward Linas Kleiza and power forward Reggie Evans. Key battles continue between Jack and Jose Calderon, who have continued to roughly split minutes, as well as between DeRozan and new acquisition Leandro Barbosa.
The bench: The second string got off to a shaky start about midway through the first quarter. First in was Amir Johnson for Reggie Evans, but it only took minutes before the notorious fouler had his first of the night. Next came Calderon for Jack, and Kleiza was swapped for Sonny Weems, who until then had averaged 12.3 points per game in the preseason (he finished with nine, the highlight an ally-oop pass from his buddy, DeRozan). Barbosa, who had averaged a team-high 14.3 points per game prior to the Sixers, finished with 19. DeRozan had 16.
The game: The Raptors trailed by two after a scrappy, sometimes sloppy first half -- which saw both teams swapping leads several times. Toronto pulled ahead 74-67 after the third quarter with some even-handed scoring from the floor. Despite some contributions from Bargnani and a three-pointer from Calderon in the game's dying minutes, the Sixers tied the game with less than two minutes to go. DeRozan had an opportunity to win the game with free-throws, but sunk just one (the Raptors missed 19 overall).
Overtime was all about Jarrett Jack, whose heroics included a clutch three-pointer with 30 seconds remaining in the first overtime (which was answered with another three from the Sixers' Evan Turner). In the second overtime, Jack scored three pointer, then crashed to the floor, sinking both his layup and free throw. DeRozan brought the game to 117-116 with about 30 seconds left, and with a quick no-look pass from Jack to Johnson, who scored, the Raptors took the game. "It was actually exciting," Jack said after the game. "We showed some resilience."
Barbosa, who played all ten minutes of overtime, earned praise from Triano. "I think his experience is something we are going to have to use a lot of. He's on the floor more for the way he defended tonight."
Jack was the Raptors' top scorer with 24 points, while Jrue Holiday led the Sixers with 18. Jack has continued to outscore Calderon in the preseason, finishing with 24 points and six assists, while the Spaniard had four and eight. Bargnani, who was 1 for 7 from the field after the first half, came alive in the final quarter and in overtime, finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The opposition: The Sixers won just 27 games last season, and made no big changes over the summer. Like the Raptors, most of their best players are relatively young, including Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Marreese Speights (who exited midway through the game with a pulled hamstring), and Thaddeus Young, offering some promise for future years. But soft D and a lack of outside shooters means this year could be another frustrating one for Philly fans. The hope is that new coach Doug Collins can have an immediate impact, especially on defense.
What's next? Preseason play continues Friday with a rematch at home against Boston, who defeated the Raptors 91-87 last week. On Sunday, Canada's Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns are in Toronto and seeking redemption after a recent 51-point shellacking by the Raptors in Vancouver. By Sunday, Triano said his starting five could be settled by Sunday -- giving them a little gel time before the season opener on Oct. 27. "A lot of it's going to depend on the way guys play at home," Triano said.