THIS WAS LIKE that pair of slacks that, no matter how you tailor them, just don't fit right.
There are gaps.
There was no way to hide the gaps in the 76ers' performance in this 94-85 loss to the Toronto Raptors.
Gaps? Chasms, maybe.
The Sixers couldn't win on a night when they outscored the visitors, 13-0, on second-chance opportunities and 10-0 on the fastbreak, outrebounded them, 43-38, outshot them 47.3 percent to 42.9, and even outpassed them, 25 assists to 23.
This was a night when Louis Williams collected 649 baseball caps for charity and the Sixers collected their 45th loss. They missed eight free throws, leaving them a weak 73-for-120 in the last five games.
The Raptors, at 43-33 and already 16 victories ahead of last season, grabbed their first Atlantic Division title when Chicago blew out New Jersey. Whatever the Sixers tried to grab too often simply slipped through their fingers.
"Their game really is getting up and down the floor," Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks said. "Maybe they didn't score on fastbreaks, but we actually tried to uptempo the game, tried to make the game a little faster. We weren't successful at it."
This was so bad that Andre Iguodala inadvertently said one of the keys came when the Raptors "threw Garbajosa in there." That would be Jose Garbajosa, who is out with a broken leg. He meant Jose Calderon, and he knew it as soon as he said it. But if Iguodala misidentified Calderon, the Sixers didn't recognize opportunities all evening.
"They played a smart game, that's what it comes down to," Iguodala said after even his 20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists couldn't jump-start the Sixers. "They had a game plan. I think the first half was ours [a 46-45 advantage]; they came back after halftime and made some key adjustments. They really stuck to their key points."
If the Sixers ever had any hope of gathering themselves, it faded in a third quarter in which they went without a point in their final 10 possessions, without a field goal in the last 5 minutes, 4 seconds. The Raptors finished the period on a 26-9 surge, including the final 15 points.
The Sixers had 15 in the entire quarter.
"We couldn't score in the third quarter," Cheeks said, stating the obvious. "They scored, and obviously that was the difference . . . We just couldn't recover after that. They played better than we did tonight."
If there was a key statistic, Iguodala suggested the steals column.
"They had nine steals [to the Sixers' three]," he said. "They really got their hands on the ball. They were very active in that area of the game. Chris Bosh had four steals; that's a lot for a big man."
Bosh, the Raptors' All-Star power forward, also had 23 points and 13 rebounds.
"You're not going to win the game or lose the game in the first half, especially on the road," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "The Sixers shot the ball well and rebounded; the guys who have been shooting the ball for them shot well. We were not making shots, but [Bosh] did a great job of keeping us in the game."
As for winning the division, Mitchell said, "It's important. It's a start."
"You come to all these arenas and they have division championship banners up in the rafters," he said. "If you are trying to start a culture of winning, these guys need to start seeing the fruits of the labor, and those things are important. You have to start somewhere, and this would be a good start for this group."
Good start, clumsy finish. Holding an 87-71 lead, the Raptors went the final 6:29 without another field goals. They missed their last five shots, settling for their last seven points from the foul line.
"They've got an offense really tailored to the personnel they have," Kyle Korver said. "They have a big man who demands double-teams, and when you double him, they're swinging it around and getting open shots. They played good basketball and we didn't play our 'A' game tonight . . . That's the hole we put ourselves in; we didn't have enough to dig ourselves out."