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Slump puts brakes on master plan

About two weeks ago, the 76ers made a goal of winning six of their final 10 games.

TORONTO - About two weeks ago, the 76ers made a goal of winning six of their final 10 games.

They started well, winning their first three at home, but then they lost the middle four: three on the road and Friday night's defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Last night's 111-104 loss to the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre put their goal out of reach.

The Sixers will host the Boston Celtics tomorrow at the Wachovia Center, then close the regular season Wednesday with a road game against the Cavaliers.

Last night's game was seen as a must-win one for the Sixers, who need to recapture that winning feeling before the playoffs begin.

"It's probably the most important game of the season," Sixers point guard Andre Miller said beforehand.

"We need to win," Sixers coach Tony DiLeo said. "We're still in reach of the fifth spot" in the Eastern Conference.

That goal is also now unobtainable.

Playing for pride

Last night marked the Raptors' final home game of the season. "We want to take care of home-court," said coach Jay Triano, whose Raptors are among the Eastern Conference's worst. "There has to be a toughness to make it difficult for teams. . . . It's our last home game, and we need to have a sense of pride."

Bombed from deep

In the four games before last night's, the Sixers had allowed 39 three-pointers, including 12 by the Cavaliers.

Thad factor?

When asked if his team's four-game losing streak was because of Thaddeus Young's absence, Miller said, "Not really. . . . We have guys who should be able to step in for him."

Since Young suffered a sprained right ankle March 31, Miller's assists have been down. Why?

"He's taking some of the scoring load, because he knows we need more scoring to make up for Thad," said DiLeo, adding that it was something he had discussed with Miller.

Young's progress

Before the game, Young worked out on the arena floor. Although he is running and jumping, Young would not commit to a return date, saying only that things were going well and that the training staff was evaluating him every day.

Young has missed the last seven games. - Kate Fagan