The Sixers and Toronto got together for Game 3 of their semifinal series and a hockey game nearly broke out. There weren’t any fights, but plenty of chippiness. And there was lots and lots of Joel Embiid as the Sixers rolled to a 116-95 win.
Here’s a recap.
Joel Embiid delivered on his promise to be more aggressive, but not reckless. He delivered with the best playoff game of his young career with 33 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks. He showed why -- when his knees aren’t bothering him or his stomach isn’t in knots -- he can be unstoppable. He had more points in Game 3 than he did in Games 1 and 2 combined (28).
The play that everyone will be talking about didn’t have much to do with the result, but Embiid nearly brought the Wells Fargo Center down with a windmill dunk after a pump fake to give the Sixers a 26-point lead. The Raptors had practically given up at that point, but it was still a remarkably athletic play.
The Sixers can take a commanding 3-1 series lead on Sunday afternoon.
Dirty play by Ben Simmons who elbowed Kyle Lowry (ahem) below the belt after the two got tangled in the second quarter. The incident came after Lowry, who is nine inches shorter, kind of low-bridged Simmons on a rebound attempt. The referees didn’t see Simmons’ cheap shot, but the league office almost surely will look into.
Simmons did earn a technical at the end of the third quarter when, well after the buzzer sounded, he blocked a shot attempt by Pascal Siakam and threw the ball toward Siakam. Unlike the elbow, this gamesmanship was caught and cost the Sixers a point.
Maybe Simmons lit Siakam’s fuse, because early in the fourth, the Raptors forward draw a flagrant foul for clearly tripping Embiid during a loose-ball.
“Ben will continue to play significant minutes until somebody tells us we’re not playing anymore,” said Brett Brown. Simmons played 36 minutes. It would have been more had the game been competitive.
“We had something like 21 uncontested threes [in Game 2]. I hope to God we get that many tonight,” said Nick Nurse. Our unofficial count had them at eight open threes while the game was still in the balance. Toronto made three of those eight. The Sixers perimeter defense was excellent.
Rhys Hoskins, James van Riemsdyk and Carson Wentz each rang the ceremonial bell prior to the game, which elicited an E-A-G-L-E-S chant from the rowdies at the Wells Fargo Center.
James Ennis tipped in a basket in the first half, but PA announcer Matt Cord mistakenly credited Embiid with the points. Embiid was in the area, but Ennis made the play. At the next stoppage, Embiid went over to the scorer’s table and implored them to give the basket to Ennis, which they did. “My bad,” Cord said. Good stuff by the big guy.
Kawhi Leonard did his best to keep the Raptors in it with 31 points in the first three quarters. He had just two in the fourth quarter as the Sixers outscored Toronto, 27-14. All-Star Kyle Lowry had just seven points, shot 2 for 10 and was -28. Yuck.
“We got outplayed in just about every area we could get outplayed: physicality, energy, running, rebounding, passing. We got thoroughly outplayed. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen this team [Toronto] play that way.” -- Raptors coach Nick Nurse.
Sixers leads series, 2-1
4: Sunday, May 5: at Sixers, 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
5: Tuesday, May 7: at Toronto, 8 p.m. (TNT)
*6: Thursday, May 9: at Sixers, time TBA (ESPN)
*7: Sunday, May 12: at Toronto, time TBA (TNT)