76ers aim to take 3-1 lead over Raptors
The Philadelphia 76ers will attempt to take a commanding 3-1 lead when they host the Toronto Raptors in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Sunday.
Conversely, the Raptors will be looking to even the series but could be without forward Pascal Siakam due to a right calf contusion. Siakam is listed as doubtful.
The 76ers went ahead in the playoff series following a 116-95 win in Game 3 on Thursday.
All-Star center Joel Embiid, who has been hampered by a sore left knee throughout the postseason, had a playoff career-high 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds and five blocked shots in only 28 minutes.
Embiid became the first player since Boston Celtics forward Kevin McHale to post at least 30 points and 10 rebounds in less than 30 minutes in a playoff game. McHale accomplished the feat on April 28, 1990.
Embiid's defensive prowess is what stood out most to head coach Brett Brown.
"He is our crown jewel defensively, and I suppose offensively, too," Brown said. "But certainly defensively. And his rim protection and blocking shot ability tonight stood out as much to me as anything in an incredible performance."
Guard Jimmy Butler played arguably his best game with the Sixers since being acquired earlier this season. Butler scored 22 points and added nine rebounds and nine assists while playing suffocating defense.
"I just do what my teammates and what my coaches need for me to do," Butler said. "I try to find the line to keep everybody happy, to tell you the truth. I think if everybody's happy, everything runs smoothly."
The Sixers shot 51.2 percent from the field in Game 3. Dating back to Game 1 of the 1991 Eastern Conference opening round against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Sixers have won 18 straight playoff games when shooting at least 50 percent.
Not having Siakam would be a blow for Toronto. The 25-year-old averaged 23.3 points, 5.7 rebounds and 36.3 minutes through the first three games.
The Raptors were led by Kawhi Leonard, who scored 33 points in Game 3. Leonard has scored at least 30 points in five games in the playoffs, which is tied for the league lead with Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant.
But the Raptors managed only 14 points in the fourth quarter and now find themselves trailing in a series in which they won the opening game handily.
When asked what offensive changes must be made for Game 4, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse didn't mince words.
"I think the first adjustment, we're going to have to make it, I guess we're going to have to play all of them a lot harder," Nurse said. "We're going to have to play a hell of a lot more physical. I mean if we don't do that, the prettiest things we decided to do offensively aren't going to matter much."
Toronto allowed the Sixers to penetrate into the paint almost at will in the fourth quarter, a trend that must be reversed if it's going to even the series.
"I think it starts with defense," Leonard said. "They had two 30-point quarters in the first half. We're not going to win like that. They scored 116 points. They got some easy looks at the basket, we didn't do well in transition early on, (they) shot 50 percent from the field, 40 (percent) from three. We've got to play better defense."
--Field Level Media
Updated May 4, 2019