TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors have survived to see another game.
Pascal Siakam had 34 points with his best performance of this postseason, and the Raptors beat the 76ers 110-102 on Saturday to avoid elimination in their first-round playoff series.
Game 5 of the best-of-seven sets is Monday in Philadelphia.
Gary Trent Jr. had 24 points, while Thaddeus Young added 13 and OG Anunoby finished with 11 for the Raptors, who played more than half the game without injured All-Star guard Fred VanVleet.
Scottie Barnes, Toronto’s new NBA rookie of the year, finished with six points and 11 rebounds in his return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle.
James Harden had 22 points for Philly, while Joel Embiid, playing with a thumb injury, finished with 21.
With the Raptors leading by no less than 17 points on Wednesday before their heartbreaking overtime loss, Game 4 was a close battle from the start. The Raptors churned out a 12-point cushion in the second quarter, but the Sixers pared the difference and the Raptors entered the fourth with an 80-77 lead.
The Sixers cut the lead to one point, but the Raptors responded with a 6-0 run, and when Young slid the ball over Embiid and Precious Achiuwa finished with a field goal, the Raptors went up seven with 9 :11 to play.
Anunoby drilled a three-pointer, then Siakam connected on a pair of free throws for a 14-point lead with 3:28 left. The Sixers crumbled in the final minutes. Embiid was whistled for a technique when he checked Siakam.
Achiuwa gave the Raptors a 14-point lead when he raced through the defense to the basket with 1:28 left, much to the delight of a rowdy crowd at Scotiabank Arena that included singer Avril Lavigne.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse emptied his bench with 1:19 to go, as the crowd chanted “Raps in seven!”
Siakam’s solid game came three days after scoring just 12 points – and zero in the second half – in Game 3, and vowed to be more aggressive.
No team in NBA history has come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, which Nurse called a “heckuva challenge,” saying “somebody’s got to do it.” Thirteen NBA teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win series, including the Denver Nuggets, who did so twice in the 2020 playoffs.
Barnes earned a standing ovation when team president Masai Ujiri presented his Rookie of the Year award before kick-off. Former Raptor great Vince Carter broke the news to the 20-year-old via video during team practice.
VanVleet, who had missed 13 games in the streak with a right knee contusion, left the game with a sprained left hip late in the second quarter. He limped badly on the pitch, grabbing the collar of his jersey with both hands and tearing it open in frustration. He limped straight to the locker room.
Embiid, who hit the game-winning three-pointer in Wednesday’s 104-101 overtime victory, played with a thumb injury that may be a torn tendon. He repeatedly shook the registered hand with a grimace on Saturday. He will soon have an MRI.
“I think we already know what it is, to be honest, but we just have to make sure,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “We think it’s not a big injury, and I’ll leave it at that.”
Siakam led the way with 10 points in a rocky first quarter that saw no team leading by more than four points. The Raptors shot just 2-for-9 from three-point range but did enough to head for second to tie Philly at 24-24.
Trent Jr. had 12 points in the second and his running three with about four minutes left in the quarter capped a 26-11 run from the Raptors and saw them go up 12. The Sixers closed with an 11 run -4, and the Raptors led 54-49 at halftime.
The Sixers won Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia by scores of 131-111 and 112-97.
The series would return to Toronto for Game 6, if necessary.
The series is the Raptors’ first playoff action at Scotiabank Arena since the 2019 championship. The Raptors sent the Sixers in seven games to the conference semifinals that year.
The Raptors have been swept in three playoff series, twice by Cleveland in 2017 and 2018 and by Washington in 2015.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 23, 2022.