76ers storm past Raptors, force Game 7

Jimmy Butler

(Field Level Media) Jimmy Butler scored 25 points, Ben Simmons added 21 and the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the visiting Toronto Raptors 112-101 yesterday to save their season and even the Eastern Conference semifinals at three game apiece.

Game 7 will be played Sunday night in Toronto. The winner will advance to meet the top-seeded Bucks, with Game 1 scheduled for Wednesday in Milwaukee.

Joel Embiid added 17 points and 12 rebounds, Tobias Harris contributed 16 points and nine rebounds, plus JJ Redick and Mike Scott had 11 points each for the third-seeded Sixers, who haven’t advanced to the Eastern Conference finals since 2001, when they ousted the Bucks in seven games — after also winning a seven-game series over Toronto.

Kawhi Leonard led the second-seeded Raptors with 29 points and 12 rebounds. Pascal Siakam added 21 points, and Kyle Lowry had 13. Leonard has scored at least 20 points in eight consecutive playoff games.

The Raptors are searching for their second trip to the Eastern Conference finals, having lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

The Sixers held a 29-21 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks in large part to Simmons’ eight points, five assists and zero turnovers.

Philadelphia’s lead swelled to 38-21 early in the second quarter following consecutive 3-pointers from Embiid and Scott.

After falling behind 42-23, the Raptors responded with a 12-0 spurt over a span of 2:40 to close within seven with 5:59 left in the second.

Butler had 11 of his 19 points in the second period — including seven in the last 1:18 — and the Sixers bolted to a 58-43 lead at halftime.

“The way he started, even the way he ended the first half, he just stamped his authority and his skill package and his will — pick whatever words you want — he was all over that game,” Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said of Butler. “The mood in the locker room as we went through sort of an early shootaround, … you could sense the serious side. They got the moment. And I think he got it as much as anybody, and led us. He was a tremendous leader and his performance mirrored his attitude.”

Leonard paced the Raptors with 14 first-half points, but Toronto shot just 3 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc before the break. Leonard missed all four of his long-range attempts in the game.

Toronto got within 69-61 before the Sixers scored nine straight points, highlighted by a three-point play by Embiid and a 3-pointer from Scott.

The Raptors trailed 87-67 at the end of the third.

Philadelphia came out aggressively to start the fourth and dropped in the first four points.

Lowry knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:53 remaining to get Toronto within 97-78.

With Philadelphia leading 101-82, Redick hit a baseline 3-pointer to put the Sixers ahead by 22 with 4:23 to go, basically sealing the victory.

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