TAMPA — If fans are indeed permitted to return to Amalie in the next couple of weeks, the Raptors could provide plenty of reasons to cheer.
Nick Nurse’s team returned to Amalie Arena on Sunday night and extended their winning streak to four with a 110-103 win over the 76ers. In doing so, the Raptors went above .500 (16-15) for the first time this season and lifted their record in Tampa to 7-6.
The Raptors opened the season by winning only twice in their first 10 games.
“I think we knew who we could be,” said Fred VanVleet, who along with Pascal Viakam had a team-high 23 points. “All along, that was kind of the frustrating part about how we started. Like I have been saying since the beginning, it is a long year and there is a lot of basketball in front of us. There will be ups and downs, but I think that we are creating an identify. You have to create an identity each year and it feels like we are doing that here as of late and we have to keep it going.”
Toronto entered the contest having taken two from the Bucks and one from the Timberwolves in sweeping a three-game road trip.
The Raptors, who played nine of their previous 10 away from Tampa with only a date with the Magic last Sunday (116-112 loss) the lone home game in that span, commenced a stretch in which five of seven will be played at Amalie to close out the season’s first half.
Playing without Kyle Lowry for the third straight game (thumb) and sixth time this season, the Raptors trailed by as many as 14 in the opening quarter and 13 in the third quarter. (Dating to last season, Toronto has won its last 17 without Lowry.)
The Raptors chipped away and took the lead for good, 93-92, on OG Anunoby’s layup with 8:28 remaining in the fourth quarter. That opened a 7-0 run and the 76ers never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
The same two teams are back at it Tuesday night (7:30) at Amalie.