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Pascal Siakam held a pep talk before the match to keep the Raptors calm in a hostile Philly environment, where they already lost twice and fell into a playoff hole.
The message was simple: “Listen to our voices.”
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How do they like the sound of this? The Resistant Raptors are on their way home, still with a chance to make a series comeback that has never happened in the NBA.
Siakam had 23 points and 10 rebounds, Precious Achiuwa scored 17 and the Toronto Raptors forced home for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference first round series against Philadelphia, where they beat the 76ers 103-88 Monday night.
“We always find out,” Siakam said.
Yo, Canada! Once the 76s have a 3-0 lead in the series, they are heading back north.
No team has ever blown a 3-0 advantage and lost a playoff series.
The Raptors have won two straight in the series and skipped injured Sixers center Joel Embiid and ineffective James Harden to make Thursday night’s game a necessity.
FanDuel Sportsbook has the Sixers favored with 1 1/2 points for game 6.
Embiid had 20 points and 11 rebounds when he played with a thumb injury. Harden scored 15 points on 4-of-11 shots.
“I was awful defensively,” Embiid said. “There really is no explanation. I just need to play with more energy, move my feet better. I just need to get better.”
The rapper and famous 76ers fan Meek Mill pulled the hood over his head and left his seat at the train station late in the match, and the home team fell 14.
Sixers coach Doc Rivers carries the weight of powerless NBA history with him through customs. Rivers, who led Boston to the championship in 2008, is the only coach in NBA history to lead three 3-1 series leads. The Magic lost to Detroit in the 2003 first round of the Eastern Conference; The 2015 Clippers blew the series to Houston in the Western Conference semifinals; and in 2020, the Clippers lost to Denver in the West semifinals.
The next season was the Rivers in Philly – and the Sixers lost three games at home as the No. 1 seed and were eliminated in the second round.
The nerves in Philly are suddenly as tight as the rims.
“We never brought the fight to them at the beginning of the game, really,” 76ers forward Tobias Harris said.
The Sixers had a lousy first half. They finished with 10 turnovers and shot 35% off the floor. Philly’s last shovel in the first quarter was one for the blooper wheel: Matisse Thybulle’s missed shot bounced off the rim and was accidentally tipped in by Achiuwa.
Maybe that triggered something for the Raptors. They opened the second quarter on a 12-0 run to take control of everything while the Sixers missed their first nine shots. The Sixers did not score until 6:51 left in the half. Scottie Barnes scored eight points in the quarter and the Raptors took a 54-41 lead at the break.
“They were the toughest team all night, they were more physical all night,” Rivers said. “I don’t think it was the second quarter. I thought it was through the whole match.”
The 76s were bubbly off the field, their play a gloomy reminder of the recent flameouts after the season.
“We’ve generated really good shots most of the series,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said before the game. “We haven’t shot very well yet. I told the guys today that today would be a good day to go ahead and start making some of the open shots.”
Raptors listened and hovered around 50% for most of the game. They also controlled the boards and scored 20 points out of 16 turnovers.
The hardener could have used the shooting tip.
Harden played the same night that All-Star he was traded to, Ben Simmons, was inactive for Brooklyn. Harden was barely more visible, missing 6 of 8 shots through three quarters and scoring nine points.
Embiid continued to play with a ligament tear in his right thumb. He looked gassy at times in the third quarter as the Raptors kept attacking the MVP finalist for hard buckets, especially Achiuwa’s run layup, which made it 73-60.
Embiid had his own rallying cry for the 76s: Return to the kind of game that gave them the 3-0 lead.
“It’s the same recipe. Don’t turn the ball around. Offensive rebound. We definitely need to be better defensively,” he said. “There’s a reason we won three games in a row.”
AND Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. scored 16 points each for the Raptors.
“Not exactly as we would draw it up, but we’re happy to still be playing,” the nurse said.
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Raptors: All-Star point guard Fred VanVleet sat out with a left hip bend. VanVleet said he was injured in Game 4 and was unsure if he could play in Game 6.
76ers: Embiid was fined $ 15,000 for criticizing the referee in Game 4. … John Calipari, who coached 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey in Kentucky, was in for the fight.
Embiid has to wait until after the season with a thumb operation.
“There’s no treatment. There really isn’t,” Rivers said. “If there’s one thing I know, it does not get worse. There really is no ice, there is no treatment for that until after the season.”
Rivers has lost seven of its last eight opportunities to close out a series. His 31 losses in those games are already the most of a coach in NBA history.
The Sixers will play Game 6 without Thybulle. Thybulle, who sat out in games 3 and 4, is barred from entering Canada because he is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.