Toronto—-Game three between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors went down to the wire. With 2.5 seconds remaining in overtime and the game knotted at 101, Sixers center Joel Embiid drained the biggest shot of his entire career. It was the game-winner — gave the Sixers a 104-101 lead, and in turn a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Raptors in front of a sellout crowd of 19,800.
The series isn’t over, but such a lead has proven to be historically huge in the past, as no team in league history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
“That’s the best shot of my career, but the job is not done,” Embiid said after the game. “We got one more, so we have to come back here in two days and try to beat them again.”
After having his and the Sixers’ playoff hopes snuffed by a Raptors’ game winner in the very same arena back in 2019, Embiid got a little redemption.
Embiid scored 33 points, 13 rebounds led the way for the 76ers in Game 3, but he also had help. James Harden and Tyrese Maxey both chipped in 19 points. Tobias Harris had a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds). Philadelphia have benefitted from a balanced scoring attack in a three games.
Both teams played evenly in the first half and went into the break tied at 46-46.
The Sixers were committing turnovers left and right, they couldn’t keep the Raptors off the offensive boards, and they found themselves trailing it by 17 in the second half.
Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes was on the bench for the second straight game because of the sprained left ankle that knocked him out of Game 1. Toronto coach Nick Nurse said Barnes is making progress and could return Saturday.
The Sixers started to gain momentum in the second half, thanks largely to an 18-point third quarter from Embiid. The Sixers trimmed Toronto’s lead to one after 36 minutes of action, and tied it up by the end of regulation.
In overtime, Embiid’s basket ultimately proved to be the difference of the game. The Sixers never had a single lead in the game until overtime. With that in mind, the Raptors have to feel like they let one get away.
On the other side, OG Anunoby scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds for the Raptors, Gary Trent Jr. poured in 24 points despite battling an illness was limited to 10 minutes of action in Game 2, and didn’t play in the second half Monday. After battling a fever and losing almost eight pounds, Trent played 45 minutes Wednesday, shooting 9 for 19 from the floor.
“Just trying to push through,” Trent said.
Precious Achiuwa had 20 off the bench. Toronto forced 24 turnovers, but couldn’t close the game out in the closing minutes.
Ahead 75-74 through three quarters, Toronto held a 95-90 lead on Achiuwa’s basket with 2:03 left in regulation.
Maxey basket made it a three-point contest, and Anunoby was called for goaltending on Harden’s shot with 1:14 left, cutting it to 95-94. After missing at one end, VanVleet fouled Harden with 49 seconds to play, but the Sixers guard missed his first shot before tying it 95-all with his second.
Harden fouled out with 27 seconds left, sending Achiuwa to the line, but the Toronto forward missed both shots.
For Embiid, his overtime 3-pointer was the most memorable single shot of his career thus far, and while it might have been his first career game winner, there’s a good chance it won’t be his last one.
“That’s one of my favorite spots. I just missed from right there to end the game (regulation). So I just felt, great play call, Tobias Harris set an amazing screen, Danny Green had a great pass, all I had to do really was to finish it. I’m glad I did.”
76ers: Green had to be restrained by teammates after he was called for a technical foul late in the second quarter. Outscored 13-4 on fast break points. Made 24 turnovers, leading to 27 points.
Raptors: C Khem Birch made his first start of the series, replacing Achiuwa. VanVleet got a technical foul for arguing after he was called for pushing Embiid out of bounds in the second quarter. Trent’s previous playoff high was 16, set Aug. 29, 2020 with Portland against the Lakers.