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Valanciunas, Lowry lead Raptors past 76ers

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TORONTO — Raptors coach Dwane Casey saw no ill-effects from his 6-foot-6 Lithuanian center as Jonas Valanciunas picked up a career-best 26 points helping Toronto to its fourth straight win.

Guard Kyle Lowry added a game-high 29 coming off a bruised kneecap as the Raptors defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 125-114 Wednesday night.

“It was good matchups to go inside, (Valanciunas) finished plays,” said Casey. “He did a good job rebounding, 12 rebounds. He had a solid game. I don’t know if it had anything to do with his off-court mishaps or not but I liked his focus, I liked his intensity, he was engaged.

“Hopefully we get it all settled.”

Valanciunas, 21, was playing just two days after he was charged with drunk driving. He entered Wednesday averaging 17.6 points over his previous five games, up from his season mark of 11.

“It’s been a rough couple days,” said Valanciunas. “I had to find the energy to come out and fight. I feel trust in my coach and my teammates. Getting the ball, doing what I’m supposed to do and playing with energy.”

Added guard DeMar DeRozan: “We all go through things, especially at a young age, that put things in perspective. It could be a mistake, it could be anything, but it could be definitely something he learns from.”

Lowry, who missed the previous three games, scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, including four straight Toronto points as the Raptors opened a late 120-110 lead.

“I’m just happy to be back with my teammates, honestly,” said Lowry. “When you miss games you feel that you are letting the team down and it’s great to be back out there with the fellas.”

Raptors center Patrick Patterson had 17 points and five rebounds, while DeRozan added 17 points and five assists.

“That’s all (Lowry) needed was some rest,” said DeRozan. “A couple days off, get his leg back right, but that’s just Kyle, what he’s been doing all season.”

Toronto (46-32) extended its winning streak to four games and earned its seventh victory in eight games. The Raptors swept the four-game season series with Philadelphia (17-61). The 76ers lost for the 14th time in their past 15 road games.

“I thought for the most part we went out there and played a solid game, they’re just a good team,” said forward Thaddeus Young, who finished with 16 points. “They are a playoff contending team, third in the East; they have proven it day-in and day-out.”

Philadelphia center Henry Sims posted 22 points and eight rebounds, while guard Michael Carter-Williams added 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists.

Toronto improved to 29-19 this season against Eastern Conference opponents, including 17-7 at home. The Raptors are 18-8 since the All-Star break and 39-20 since trading forward Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in December.

“They’re going to do well in the playoffs and it was great for us to compete against a team like that who is getting ready for the playoffs,” said Carter-Williams. “I’m proud of the guys and go on to our next game.”

The Raptors used a 6-1 surge to start the fourth quarter, pulling away for good.

The 76ers opened the second half on an 8-2 run, closing Toronto’s lead to 78-74.

Following a Raptors timeout, 76ers guard James Anderson (17 points) drained a 3-pointer, making it a one point-game.

Guard Terrence Ross got the Raptors turned in the right direction, hitting two difficult, long shots, giving the Raptors a 98-89 lead heading into the fourth. Ross, who finished with 11 points, shot 3-for-5 from 3-point range.

Valanciunas had 17 points in 17 minutes and was 6-for-7 from the field as the Raptors lead 68-60 at halftime. He finished 10-for-14.

Wednesday marked Valanciunas’ eighth consecutive game scoring in double digits, matching his season-high.

“(Valanciunas) was going like trash or he was going to play amazing,” added DeRozan. “He played amazing like we all expected. It’s a tough situation for him to handle, but this is our sanctuary, basketball.”

NOTES: Raptors F/C Amir Johnson (ankle) missed his third game. He was replaced in the lineup by Patrick Patterson. … Toronto is one win shy of the franchise record set during the 2006-07 season. … The Raptors entered their night tied with the Chicago Bulls for the third seed in the Eastern Conference with five games remaining. … The 76ers entered Wednesday allowing a league-high 109.9 points this season.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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