NBA: Butler-led 76ers look to take series lead against Raptors

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at May 02 2019 08:31 AM

NBA: Butler-led 76ers look to take series lead against Raptors 1
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) drives to during game one of the second round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena. Toronto defeated Philadelphia. John E. Sokolowski, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

The Philadelphia 76ers will return home and look to take a 2-1 lead when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Thursday night.

The third-seeded Sixers evened the series at one game apiece with a gritty 94-89 win Monday in Toronto.

Philadelphia could be short-handed once again, though forward Mike Scott, who has been out with a heel contusion and plantar fasciitis, did practice on Wednesday. All-Star center Joel Embiid also continues to be hampered by a sore left knee, though he remains probable.

"I think we just did our job," said 76ers guard Jimmy Butler after scoring 30 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and handing out five assists in Game 2 to halt a 14-game losing streak in Toronto. "Everybody wants to paint a picture that we haven't won here in however many years. I'm just glad that we came out on top. Going home, we just need to do the same thing we did tonight."

If the starters are limited, the Sixers' bench will be crucial. In Game 2, James Ennis scored a playoff career-high 13 points while Greg Monroe backed up Embiid with 10 points and five rebounds.

Boban Marjanovic only played one minute and Monroe's output had to be surprising.

"They came in and made shots," Butler said of the reserves. "But more than anything, they were guarding."

The Sixers' defense was shaky in Game 1 and terrific in Game 2 as they held the Raptors to 36.7 percent shooting, including 27 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Toronto made only 10 of 37 treys.

"The whole game was a good momentum swing for us as a team," forward Tobias Harris said. "We came in with a game plan, an adjustment that was made and we executed it. We did it very well. That was big for us, big for our confidence and we've got to go back home and be able to protect our court."

Kawhi Leonard led the second-seeded Raptors with 35 points and Pascal Siakam added 21 but shot just 9 of 25 from the field. The Toronto bench was mostly ineffective in Game 2, a trend that must change if it's going to take a lead in this series.

Reserve forward Norman Powell has scored just three points in two playoff games against the Sixers. Serge Ibaka is shooting 4 of 14 and has committed nine fouls. Point guard Fred VanVleet failed to score in Game 2.

But Raptors head coach Nick Nurse isn't focused solely on statistics.

"(VanVleet's) done his job (on defense) all these playoffs," Nurse told reporters. "He was really good on (Orlando's Terrence) Ross, he's been good on (JJ) Redick as well. He's been excellent on defense, and again, I think Norm's been really good on defense as well."

Conversely, the Raptors believe they simply missed too many shots. The Sixers' defense might have been improved, but the Raptors missed 27 treys.

Guard Danny Green misfired on a potential 3-pointer that would have tied Game 2 in the waning seconds.

"You have to take them," Raptors center Marc Gasol said. "Those are good looks. You take them over and over again. You can't get stuck on a missed shot or two missed shots. If it's a good shot and you feel in rhythm, take it. If not, move it. Don't just overthink it and kill the flow of the game."

--Field Level Media

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