TORONTO - For 9 minutes, 12 seconds Sunday, the worst team in the Atlantic Division - and the NBA for that matter - was beating the division leader.
But it was only a matter of when, not if, the Raptors would regain the lead and take command of the game.
They did 18 seconds later and never relinquished it en route to a 96-76 victory over the 76ers on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre.
Nerlens Noel suffered a game-ending corneal abrasion to his left eye when he was elbowed by Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry with 3:15 left in the third quarter. The 6-foot-11 power forward was taken to an area hospital. Fifteen minutes after the game, coach Brett Brown was not sure whether Noel would be able to fly on the team plane to Chicago. The Sixers (1-24) will face the Chicago Bulls on Monday at the United Center.
"We didn't think that was wise because of the pressure on the airplane," the coach said.
Noel was cleared to fly with the team to Chicago. But Brown was unsure as to whether the player would suit up against the Bulls.
Lowry, a former Cardinal Dougherty and Villanova standout, received a technical foul. Noel finished with two points, five rebounds, four assists, and a blocked shot.
Sixers center Jahlil Okafor had 23 points and 14 rebounds for the Sixers, the rookie's third straight game scoring at least 20 points.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors (16-9) with 25 points and eight rebounds. Forward Luis Scola added 22 points on 10-for-14 shooting in just 27 minutes. Lowry had 16 points, five rebounds, and three assists.
The Sixers pulled within six points with 7:16 to play, But the Raptors closed out the game with a 19-5 run.
T.J. McConnell (two points, three assists) returned to the starting lineup because Tony Wroten had the night off, and the Sixers brought Kendall Marshall off the bench.
The Sixers wanted to put Marshall in position to close out the game. The team is restricting his playing time as he comes back from February surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
"If we start him four minutes, four minutes, four minutes, four minutes at the start of each [quarter], it just doesn't work," Brown said at the morning shootaround. "I'm not going to start him tonight for that reason."
Sunday was Marshall's second game after he missed the first 23 games. He had two points and five assists in 20 minutes.
The fourth-year veteran and Wroten have not been cleared to play on back-to-back nights. Wroten, returning from the same injury, will play Monday night while Marshall rests.
The matchup was a homecoming for Nik Stauskas. The guard is from Mississauga, Ontario, about 20 minutes outside of Toronto.
He scored nine points one day after spending time at his parents' house. Stauskas said he went to four or five Raptors games a year while growing up.
"I'd come back home after watching the games as a kid, I'd go right to my backyard and try to imitate everything I saw out there and imagine I was on the floor, too," he said, "So it's cool to see all of the hard work pay off and I'm actually here as a professional."