Sixers thwart Raptors comeback, tie series
MANILA, Philippines – The Philadelphia 76ers nearly blew a huge double-digit cushion against the Toronto Raptors but held on with Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid coming through the clutch.
Butler fired 30 points, including 7 straight inside the last 3 minutes, as the Sixers held off the Raptors, 94-89, to tie their best-of-seven NBA Eastern Conference semifinals series at 1-1 on Monday, April 29 (Tuesday, April 30, Manila time).
The Sixers led by as many as 19 points in the first half, 45-26, before the Raptors came roaring back behind Kawhi Leonard and pulled within a point, 90-89.
Embiid, though, responded with a clutch spin move in the lane to cushion the Sixers’ lead, 92-89, with 24.3 seconds left.
The Raptors had a chance to tie the game but Danny Green missed a wide-open three-point attempt.
Butler, who also had 11 rebounds and 5 assists, kept the Sixers afloat in the closing minutes as the Raptors came out charging in the second half.
Leonard finished with a game-high 35 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists for the Raptors, who took Game 1 with a dominant 108-95 decision.
Butler scored 12 of his 30 points in the 4th quarter. That included a three-pointer off an assist from Embiid that put the Sixers up 88-81 with 2:14 to play.
"My team had a lot of faith in me tonight," said Butler, who scored just 10 points in Game 1. "I told them I had to come out and redeem myself."
Embiid, battling a stomach ailment as well as the nagging knee pain that troubled him in the first round, scored just two baskets. The second couldn't have been better timed as he drove to bank in a shot that put the 76ers up, 92-89, with 24.3 seconds remaining.
Green then missed a potential game-tying three-pointer and Philadelphia's Tobias Harris grabbed the rebound.
Harris was fouled and sealed the win with two free throws.
Pascal Siakam added 21 and Kyle Lowry scored 20 for the Raptors.
But the 5 points from Toronto's reserves were dwarfed by the production of Philadelphia's bench: 13 points from James Ennis, 10 from Greg Monroe and 3 from Jonah Bolden.
The series heads to Philadelphia for Game 3 on Thursday. – With a report from Agence France-Presse