TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors lived to see another game.
Pascal Siakam poured in 34 points with his best performance of these playoffs, and the Raptors beat the 76ers 110-102 on Saturday to avoid elimination in their opening-round playoff series.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven set goes Monday in Philadelphia.
Gary Trent Jr. had 24 points, while Thaddeus Young chipped in with 13, and OG Anunoby finished with 11 for the Raptors, who played more than half the game without injured all-star guard Fred VanVleet.
Scottie Barnes, Toronto’s newly minted NBA rookie of the year, finished with six points and 11 rebounds in his return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle.
James Harden had 22 points for Philly, while Joel Embiid, playing with a thumb injury, finished with 21.
While the Raptors led by as many as 17 points on Wednesday before their heartbreaking loss in overtime, Game 4 was a tight battle from the outset. The Raptors cobbled together a 12-point cushion in the second quarter, but the Sixers chipped away at the difference and the Raptors went into the fourth clutching an 80-77 lead.
The Sixers cut the lead to a point, but the Raptors replied with a 6-0 run, and when Young swiped the ball off Embiid and Precious Achiuwa finished with a basket, the Raptors went up by seven with 9:11 to play.
Anunoby drilled a three-pointer, then Siakam connected on a pair of free throws for a 14-point lead with 3:28 to play. The Sixers unravelled in the final few minutes. Embiid was whistled for a technical when he bodychecked Siakam.
Achiuwa gave the Raptors a 14-point lead when he slashed through the defence to the basket with 1:28 to play, to the delight of a rowdy Scotiabank Arena crowd that included singer Avril Lavigne.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse emptied his bench with 1:19 to play, as the crowd chanted “Raps in seven!”
Siakam’s solid game came three days after he scored just 12 points — and zero in the second half — in Game 3, and vowed to be more aggressive.
No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, which Nurse called a “heckuva challenge,” saying “somebody’s gotta do it.” Thirteen NBA teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win series, including the Denver Nuggets, who did it twice in the 2020 playoffs.
Barnes earned a loud standing ovation when team president Masai Ujiri presented his rookie of the year award before tipoff. Former Raptor great Vince Carter had delivered the news to the 20-year-old via video during a team practice.
VanVleet, who’d missed 13 games down the stretch with a bruised right knee, left the game with a left hip strain late in the second quarter. He limped badly down the court, grabbing the neck of his jersey with two hands and ripping it in frustration. He limped straight to the locker-room.
Fred VanVleet out of Raptors’ playoff game
Embiid, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in Wednesday’s 104-101 overtime win, played with a thumb injury that is feared to be a torn tendon. He repeatedly clutched the taped hand with a grimace on Saturday. He’ll undergo an MRI shortly.
“I think we already know what it is, to be honest, but we’ve just got to make sure,” said Sixers coach Doc Rivers. “We feel like it’s not a great injury, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”
Siakam led the way with 10 points in a see-saw first quarter that saw neither team lead by more than four points. The Raptors shot just 2-for-9 from three-point range yet did enough to head into the second tied with Philly at 24-24.
Trent Jr. had 12 points in the second and his running three-pointer with about four minutes left in the quarter capped a Raptors 26-11 run and saw them go up by 12. The Sixers closed with an 11-4 run, and the Raptors led 54-49 at the halftime break.
The Sixers won Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia by scores of 131-111 and 112-97.
The series would come back to Toronto for Game 6, if necessary.
This series is the first Raptors playoff action at Scotiabank Arena since the 2019 championship run. The Raptors dispatched the Sixers in seven games in the conference semifinals that year.
The Raptors have been swept in three playoff series, twice by Cleveland in 2017 and ’18 and by Washington in 2015.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 23, 2022.
© 2022 The Canadian Press