NBA: Siakam powers Raptors over Sixers to avoid playoffs sweep
NEW YORK – Pascal Siakam scored a playoff career-high 34 points and the Toronto Raptors avoided being swept out of the NBA playoffs on Saturday by defeating the Philadelphia 76ers 110-102.
The 28-year-old Cameroonian forward made 10-of-19 from the floor and 13-of-15 from the free throw line while adding eight rebounds, five assists, two blocked shots and a steal for host Toronto.
“We played hard. Coming out being aggressive, I just wanted to be a team player,” Siakam said. “Whenever I get it going, we know that’s going to be dangerous.”
The 76ers still lead the Raptors 3-1 in the best-of-seven first round series, which continues Monday in Philadelphia. No team has ever recovered from a 3-0 deficit to win an NBA playoff series.
“We have to do a better job. We need to go back to the drawing board and do whatever it takes to be better,” 76ers star center Joel Embiid said.
Embiid, the NBA scoring leader from Cameroon, was nagged by a right thumb injury, reportedly torn ligaments, despite producing 21 points and eight rebounds.
“I haven’t had an MRI yet so we have to see how bad it really is,” Embiid said. “I’m not really worried about what can happen, I’m worried about what I can do.
“It’s really painful. You use your hand a lot. I’ve got to make adjustments and be more physical.”
Asked what he might do if ligaments are torn and surgery is suggested, Embiid made it clear any operation would come after a Sixers’ playoff run.
“It’s the playoffs. Nothing is going to stop me. I’ve got to keep going and hope for the best,” Embiid said.
“I would imagine I’ll keep playing and do something after the season.”
Sixers coach Doc Rivers said it feels like injuries are hitting stars like Embiid in every series and they must fight through them.
“It’s going to be something he’s going to have to deal with throughout the playoffs from this point on,” Rivers said. “It’s not going to go away. He’ll get better and better at figuring out how to use it.
“It felt like one of those games where everybody was getting hurt. It got physical… You can’t a take a game for granted in this league. Watching all the playoffs, guys are dropping like flies. We’ve got to be very careful.”
The Raptors were also hit by injuries, NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes tweaking a sprained left ankle and Fred VanVleet leaving in the second quarter with a left hip injury.
“He’s going to need some work,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of VanVleet. “He has been banged around good and gone out there and played some serious minutes. I’m sure he was frustrated.”
Siakam scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, holding off a Sixers fightback attempt in the final minutes, especially silencing Embiid.
“We made it tough on him to score and we live with whatever happens,” Siakam said.
Gary Trent Jr. added 24 points for the Raptors.
James Harden led Philadelphia with 22 points while Tobias Harris added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
“I told the guys this might be good for us,” Harden said. “We’re still up 3-1. We’re growing as a team, which is a good sign for us.”
Later playoff games Saturday will find Dallas at Utah, Boston at Brooklyn and Memphis at Minnesota.
Embiid, who averaged 27.7 points and 13.0 rebounds a game in the first three games, started despite the sore thumb, which Rivers said could not be made worse by his playing.
“The thumb is a concern but I know if he’s on the court he’s going to give his all,” Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey said. “We’ll be better and watch the film and come out Monday and try to get a victory.”
VanVleet left with the Raptors in a 20-6 run that produced a 50-38 Toronto lead. Philadelphia pulled level at 54-54 early in the third quarter but couldn’t grab the lead after that.
“We wasn’t good,” Rivers said. “That little mental part of the game where you have to come and play, I didn’t think we had that. They played harder, tougher, faster, more physical and good things come to the energy.
“We were so sloppy execution-wise. We just made so many mistakes. You can’t win an NBA regular-season game playing like that much less a playoff game. That’s a good lesson for us.”