By Peter Gleason
Before the Sixers-Raptors series started, the conventional wisdom was that Toronto’s Kawhi Leonard would be too much for Philly to handle.
And that has been true.
Leonard is a lock-down defender and has become an All World offensive player.
But last night Leonard was sensational, and no other Raptor stepped up as the Sixers took a two games to one lead in the East semis.
After battling through the first two games of the series with a sore left knee, Joel Embiid countered Leonard’s effort with 33 points, 10 rebounds, five blocks and three assists in just 28 minutes.
Leonard, who finished with 33 points, four rebounds and three assists, couldn’t find any support from teammates not named Pascal Siakam (20 points) and Danny Green (13 points), as the rest of the team finished with a grand total of 29 points on 26 shots.
The 76ers have dared both Marc Gasol and Kyle Lowry to become scorers in this series, and the strategy has served to completely take the Raptors offence out of its rhythm. This was a team that finished the season with the best three-point shooting percentage since the acquisition of Gasol, but has now shot under 30 percent from beyond the arc in back-to-back losses.
Toronto’s bench was once again a non-factor in this one, and Fred VanVleet had his worst performance of the playoffs thus far — which is saying something — with a single point on 0-for-7 shooting, including missing all five of his three-point attempts.
Jimmy Butler was also terrific for the Sixers, finishing with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
The Sixers will carry a 2-1 series lead into Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.