Leonard scores 35 points, but Raptors lose 94-89
Kawhi Leonard gave it a good go, but it turns out, one man can’t single-handedly get the job done.
The Raptors star scored 20 of his 35 points in the second half during Monday’s defeat. It also signalled the worst half of basketball by the Raptors in these playoffs. And, Toronto went on to lose in ugly fashion by 94-89 against the Philadelphia 76ers.
The best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series now goes to Philadelphia for Thursday’s Game three. It is evenly poised at one game each. Toronto has to hope some of their other players can get their form together, at what’s sure to be a passionate Wells Fargo Center.
Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam recorded 21 points for the Raptors. They overcame a 19-point deficit to make it a tight game down the final stretch. Also, Kyle Lowry got 20 points. As for the rest of the Raptors, they didn’t turn up. The next highest scorer was Marc Gasol on five points.
“They came out more aggressive than us,” Lowry said. “We didn’t come out aggressive enough. We didn’t come out with a super sense of urgency. And we didn’t play well tonight. They played really desperate and super hard, and they got a victory.”
Coach Nick Nurse called his team’s first half “stand-aroundish.”
He continued: “We didn’t start out very good with flow and rhythm and stuff. But we picked it up.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler recorded 30 points and added 11 rebounds to lead the Sixers. Joel Embiid finished with 12 points. Embiid nearly missed out on the game due to stomach flu.
It should have come as no surprise that the Sixers would be resurgent after a disappointing showing during Game One. However, the Raptors seemed shocked.
“That’s normally the case from the team that goes down 0-1 or loses the last game,” Nurse said pre-game. “I think that’s always the thing you remember.”
Toronto clearly didn’t remember how good this Sixers side was. They threw different defensive looks at the Raptors. This led to Toronto being outscored in the first quarter for the first time this post-season. Furthermore, the Raptors trailed by 19 points midway through the second quarter.
“I thought our defence at the start of the game was almost as good as it could be,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
In a first-half offence that moved like sludge, it was a familiar face that led the charge. Leonard managed 15 points despite facing a swarm of Sixers defenders. The rest of the side shot a dismal 9-for-36 combined. Meanwhile, the best three-point shooting team in the league hit just three of their 15 shots from behind the arc.
In a night of very few positives, there was a resounding feeling that despite how bad the Raptors were, they only trailed by 13 points at the break.
“It was easy just to sit back and let the game go, but we fought hard, and I’m just proud that we did that and I think it’s good for us and we’ll just go back, watch the film and just get ready for Game 3,” Siakam said.
Somehow Toronto found another gear in the third quarter. As they outscored Philidelphia 25-18 and held them to 29 per cent shooting. This included 0-for-11 from the three-point range. And when Gasol connected on a pair of free throws with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter, it capped a 17-8 run for the Raptors. Meaning the difference was cut to just a point.
However, the Raptors went cold to start the fourth quarter. They missed all but one of their first seven shots, and when Ben Simmons strolled through the Raptors defence for an easy layup with 8:43, it was back to an 11-point deficit. The visitors would go up by 13 before the Raptors clawed their way back again. A pair of three-pointers by Lowry cut the deficit to three points with 1:36 remaining. Before Siakam scored with 46 seconds left made it a one-point game.
For a brief couple of minutes, Toronto looked like the dominant team of Game one. As they grabbed an early 4-0 lead. However, the Raptors couldn’t buy a basket, with only four Raptors scoring in the first quarter. This allowed the Sixers to go on a 21-10 run to take a 26-17 lead into the second.
The series continues on Thursday.