PHILADELPHIA—With basically the season in the balance, the Raptors came up with their toughest effort of the NBA playoffs.
In a delightful, physical, close-all-way display of NBA playoff basketball, Toronto rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Philadelphia 76ers 101-96 Sunday afternoon.
The win reduces the Eastern Conference semifinal to a best-of-three affair with Game 5 at the Scotiabank Arena on Tuesday and Game 6 here on Thursday night. A seventh game, if necessary, would be next Sunday in Toronto.
Kawhi Leonard was once again brilliant for the Raptors, scoring 39 points with 14 assists and playing almost 44 of the game’s 48 minutes.
Jimmy Butler scored 29 for Philadelphia.
A Leonard three-pointer to beat the shot clock with less than a minute left gave the Raptors a four-point lead and, when Tobias Harris missed a corner three for Philadelphia, Danny Green made two free throws for a six-point lead that iced the game.
Pascal Siakam, whose availability was in question until minutes before tipoff because of a bruised right calf, started but was not nearly as effective as he usually his
He missed all seven shots he took in the first half, including four open corner three-pointers, and finished with nine points.
His mobility dropped off as the game went on; he was close to normal in the first half but labouring to move fluidly to start the third quarter.
His limited effectiveness — and the lack of production Toronto has been getting from its substitutes — led Raptors coach Nick Nurse to run out a series of lineups he hadn’t used in the series.
Patrick McCaw saw his first substantial action in the first half, Nurse barely used the two point guard backcourt of Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and he used a big frontcourt of Siakam, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol early in the fourth quarter.
Doug Smith is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @smithraps