Kawhi Leonard stars in 101-96 win

Kawhi Leonard scored 39 points, and 14 rebounds as the second-seeded Toronto Raptors defeated their hosts, Philadelphia 76ers 101-96 on Sunday to even their Eastern Conference semi-finals at two games apiece.

Meanwhile, Marc Gasol scored 16 points. Kyle Lowry added a further 14 points and added seven assists for Toronto.

Pascal Siakam had been doubtful with a sore calf. However, he was in the starting lineup and missed his first seven shots. However, he gave Toronto a lift with nine points and three steals.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Butler paced the third-seeded Sixers with 29 points and 11 rebounds. While JJ Redick added 19. Joel Embiid was reportedly ill, and only had 11 points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. This came just one game after scoring 33 in Philadelphia’s Game 3 victory.

However, there was little doubt who the star of the show was. Leonard was terrific with 17 points and added ten rebounds as the Raptors pulled ahead 47-45 at half-time. It was the first time during Leonard’s career that he had posted at least 15 points and ten rebounds in one half.

“They ended up switching,” Leonard said speaking after the game. “Embiid is a good defender, long. So at the time I just looked up at the shot clock and tried to get as much space as possible and just took a shot and believed that it was going to go in. And it did.”

However, Butler was the only Sixers player in double figures, with 14 points in the first half. Embiid appeared to be bothered by a left leg issue and finished the first two quarters with only five rebounds and six points.

Butler hit a difficult three-pointer from the wing, as the Sixers pulled ahead 57-52 with just over eight minutes remaining in the third.

Nick Nurse said: “We needed some punch around the roster. It was a different mentality. Guys were looking to shoot, taking the first shot that was there.”

Siakam finally recorded his first basket when he received a pass from Lowry and threw a dunk for a 66-65 Raptors lead with 4:15 remaining in the third.

Speaking to reporters, Lowry said: “Tonight we all kind of stepped up a little bit more. Pascal was big, Pascal playing hurt and toughing through, we knew everybody had to step up. We’ve got to take the shots that are there, they’re a swarming team, and when they swarm we’ve got to make them play, and we made some big shots tonight.”

Harris later drained a three-pointer to give the Sixers a narrow lead with under a minute remaining in the quarter. However, Serge Ibaka then hit a jump hook in the lane. As the Raptors tied the game at 75 apiece at the end of the third period.

The game became quite chippy. With bodies falling to the floor and both teams diving for loose balls while playing a physical brand of basketball.

Leonard hit 1-of-2 two free throws, and Toronto led 85-84 with 6:20 left.

Despite missing nine straight shots, the Sixers still trailed by only 89-87 with 2:35 remaining after a pair of Butler free throws.

Leonard’s trey with the shot clock running out gave the Raptors a 94-90 advantage with 1:01 left, and after Tobias Harris missed a 3-pointer on the 76ers’ ensuing possession, Toronto sealed the win by making 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch.

Peace,

Burke.

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