TORONTO - Landry Fields' return to the starting lineup came with a double-double — and an apology.
Fields had 10 points and 11 rebounds in his first start since he was shelved on Nov. 7 because of elbow surgery to help the Raptors to a 90-72 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old went up for an alley-oop dunk from Jose Calderon for the last basket of the game, securing his double-double but leaving both teams' coaches less than impressed.
"I actually want to apologize for that. I'm sorry. I saw we had to take a last shot anyway. It could have been done a lot better. I kind of feel bad about that," Fields said on the shot with 16 seconds on the clock.
"As soon as my man turned his head, I just made eye contact with Jose. But it could have been done a lot better, and it would have been a lot classier on my part."
Amir Johnson had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Toronto (13-22), which won for the first time in three games. DeMar DeRozan also had 19 points, Ed Davis added 17, and Calderon had 14 points to go with 11 assists.
Fields, who was cleared to play on Dec. 18, grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds and added 10 points.
Neither team could muster much energy through a pedestrian and sloppy affair. The Sixers had an excuse, coming off a 109-89 loss to the Brooklyn Nets the previous night in Philly. The Raptors hadn't played since losing 104-92 to Oklahoma City at home on Sunday — with a day off and day of practice in between.
The frustration on the part of the Raptors was clear. Calderon's body language told part of the story, while DeRozan hollered at himself as he walked back to the bench after being blocked.
"It was a grinder," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "It was an Eastern-Conference grinder. (Philly) felt like just coming in and grinding it out and our guys did a good job short-handed and grinding it out."
Thaddeus Young and Jrue Holiday had 16 points each to top the Sixers (15-22).
Toronto led for most of the game in front of 15,629 fans at Air Canada Centre and took a 71-61 advantage into the fourth.
The Sixers pulled to within six points midway through the quarter, but that was as close as the visitors would come, as Davis and Johnson teamed up to score what looked like they'd be the Raptors' final five buckets of the game — until Fields' emphatic dunk on Toronto's final possession to earn the double-double.
"I'm sorry for the last play, I didn't realize at the time, I feel bad about it, and I know (Sixers) coach Doug Collins was mad about it," Calderon said. "It's not Jose Calderon. I didn't realize the timing, throw that and after realize what I was doing."
Casey said he'd instructed Calderon to hold the ball, but that the point guard must not have heard him.
"Things happen, we're big boys. Believe me, we've had it happen to us 15, 20 times this year," Casey said. "We're losing, they're trying to put their foot on our throat. But we never want to embarrass anybody."
Fields, acquired in the off-season, had surgery on a nerve in his elbow on Nov. 14 to alleviate tenderness in his right hand. He was cleared to play on Dec. 18.
"It felt great," Fields said on his start. "When I get out there, I don't have to think about my elbow and what's really going on, I can just kind of play free and comfortable. And in turn, that kind of builds my confidence."
The Raptors shot 49 per cent from the field and held the Sixers to 39 per cent shooting. Toronto outrebounded the visitors 46-37.
The game was the beginning of a key stretch for the Raptors, which sees them play nine of 10 games against Eastern Conference opponents. Toronto began the night two games behind Philly for ninth in the East.
The Raptors were short on bodies once again due to injury. Rookie Terrence Ross missed the game after spraining his ankle on Sunday. Andrea Bargnani, who missed his 11th game, and Jonas Valanciunas (his seventh) have no timeline for a return, while Linas Kleiza sat out his fourth straight game.
Fields, who started in place of Mickael Pietrus, grabbed seven boards in the first quarter, helping the Raptors to an early 10-point lead but the Raptors held just a 24-21 edge going into the second.
Toronto led for all of a dreary second quarter, but never by more than nine points and took a 42-40 lead into the halftime break.
Calderon scored 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting in a third quarter that saw the Sixers pull even four times. The Raptors used a 15-6 run to take a 12-point lead and led 71-61 with a quarter left to play.
Note: The Raptors host Charlotte on Friday then wrap up their homestand against Milwaukee on Sunday.