Sixers lose to Raptors in Game 1 of NBA playoff series, can’t contain Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam
Leonard finished with 45 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, two steals and one block. The three-time All-Star’s point total tied his playoff career high and matched his regular-season career high.
TORONTO — No answers.
On Saturday, the 76ers had no answers for Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam. And so the Toronto Raptors took a 108-95 victory in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series at Scotiabank Arena.
Leonard finished with 45 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. The three-time All-Star’s point total tied his playoff career high and matched his regular-season career high.
Siakam added 29 points and seven rebounds as Toronto took a 1-0 advantage in the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is 8 p.m. Monday here.
“Two really good players,” said Sixers star Joel Embiid, who made just 5 of 18 shots to finish with 16 points. "Their two best players showed up. I didn’t tonight and I have to do a better job.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys. They showed up. ... They did a good. Next time maybe just like they are doing to me and double-teaming me. Throw some double-teams and have a better game plan.”
The Sixers must find a way to defend this duo if they hope to even the series.
Leonard and Siakam dominated from the start.
They combined to score the Raptors’ first 11 points. Leonard and Siakam had 17 points apiece to score 34 of their team’s 39 first-quarter points.
“I saw what Kawhi was doing,” Siakam said. “He was unbelievable just getting to his spots, making shots, driving. I wasn’t really looking at myself. I saw what Kawhi did.”
The third-year veteran was unaware that he, too, had 17 first-quarter points.
“Oh, I did,” he said. "Nah, it was good. We had early [on] a lot of pace and tried to play in transition and take what the defense gives me.
“Obviously, Kawhi was [on his game]. too.”
They ended up with a combined 49 points as the Raptors led, 61-52, at the half.
Leonard had 27 first-half points on 10-for-14 shooting, with Jimmy Butler, James Ennis, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris all taking turns guarding him. His highlight was a spin move to the basket on Butler in the second quarter.
The remarkable thing about those 27 points is that he averaged 27.8 points for an entire game in the first-round series against the Orlando Magic.
“He’s an elite scorer,” Ennis said of what makes Leonard so hard to guard. "One of the best scorers in today’s game. Like I said, I think we can be more physical with him. Make him more tougher on his catches and stuff like that.
“Like I said before, when he gets to his spots, he’s going to make his shots.”
So will Siakam.
The Cameroonian added 22 points while making 9 of 11 shots in the first two quarters.
With the duo leading the way, the Raptors improved to 3-14 in opening games of playoff series. They also continued their dominance against the Sixers.
This marked Philly’s 14th straight loss in Toronto since a 93-83 win here on Nov. 10, 2012. The Raptors have also won 22 of 25 meetings dating back to the start of the 2013-14 season.
That includes Toronto’s winning three of this season’s four regular-season meetings. The Sixers lone victory was a 126-101 win on Dec. 22. when Toronto was without Leonard, a two-time defensive player of the year; Serge Ibaka; and former Raptor Jonas Valanciunas.
Some argued that those previous meetings had no bearing on this playoffs series. Folks pointed to the Sixers’ being a different team since then thanks to several roster-altering trades.
Power forward Harris and reserves Boban Marjanovic and Ennis, three of their top seven players Saturday, were acquired on Feb. 7, before the trade deadline.
Reserve power forward Mike Scott, the fourth newcomer in the regular rotation, missed the game with a right heel contusion/plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
It probably wouldn’t have made a difference.
Leonard added 18 points in the second half before exiting for good with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining.
“I don’t think we showed enough help as a team,” Simmons said of guarding Leonard. " ... Downhill, he’s one of those guys that can get buckets, easily."
The Sixers realize they must do a better job of defending Leonard.
His and Siakam’s combined 74 points for the game was more than the Sixers’ starting lineup (71) by three points.
JJ Redick paced the Sixers with 17 points -- all in the second half. Harris had 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Embiid had eight rebounds to go with his 16 points. Ben Simmons had 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting to go with nine rebounds. Butler had 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting,
Toronto scored 22 points off the Sixers’ 16 turnovers.
“I think they are a tough team to go up against our defensive set,” Butler said. "We talked about it. ... We talked about what we were going to do.
“I don’t think we did a good job of doing what we said we were going to do.”