By Lewis Gould
In game 5 of their Eastern Conference semi series with the Toronto Raptors, Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons not only didn’t step up their games.
They actually receded into irrelevance.
And as a result the Sixers, who once held a 2-1 lead in the series, are now down 3 games to 2 and face elimination when the series picks up Thursday night in South Philly.
Embiid scored 13 points and had eight turnovers. Embiid started despite missing the morning shoot-around because of flu-like symptoms.
“Offensively there was a rhythm to his game that was clearly out of synch,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “He’s been in bed for two days.”
Embiid also battled illness in Games 2 and 4.
“I know I’ve got to do a better job for us to win,” Embiid said.
Sixers guard Ben Simmons shot 3 for 5 and finished with seven points, seven rebounds, and five turnovers.
Kawhi Leonard had 21 points and 13 rebounds, Pascal Siakam scored 25 points and the Raptors routed the Sixers 125-89.
If the 76ers can somehow extend the series to a seventh game, it would be played in Toronto on Sunday night.
Leonard, who had scored 33 or more points in each of the first four games of the series, shot 7 for 16 from the field and 7 for 8 at the line before checking out with 7:22 to play and Toronto up 103-73. He had four assists and two steals.
“Tonight was one of those games where we let him rest a little bit, which is important,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said. “He had a big double-double, but he didn’t have to do everything offensively.”
Leonard scored 39 points in Toronto’s Game 4 win on Sunday.
Lowry scored 19 points, while Danny Green shot 5 for 7 from 3-point range and finished with 17 points. Marc Gasol scored 11 points and Serge Ibaka had 10. All five Toronto starters scored in double digits.
“Kawhi still had a great game and the surrounding cast contributed,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said.
The 36-point margin was the largest in Toronto’s postseason history, and marked Philly’s worst playoff defeat since a 40-point loss to Boston in Game 1 of the 1982 Eastern Conference finals.
“The spirit, I thought, went away a little bit quicker than I’d wished,” Brown said.
Up by one after the first, the Raptors outscored the 76ers 37-17 in the second to take a 21-point lead, 64-43, at halftime.
“The second period is where it got away from us,” Brown said. “I give Toronto credit, we didn’t have the answers for a few of their players and it snowballed.”
Ahead 92-70 at the start of the fourth, Toronto extended its lead to a game-high 40 points on a dunk by Normal Powell with 2:24 remaining.
The Raptors shot 16 for 40 from 3-point range, setting a franchise record for 3-pointers in a postseason game. They hadn’t made more than 10 in the four previous games this series.
“The 3-point shot was punishing tonight,” Brown said.
Jimmy Butler scored 22 points and Tobias Harris had 15 for the 76ers, who have lost two straight after winning the previous two.
Siakam scored nine points in the first and Lowry had eight as Toronto led 27-26 after one. Leonard had seven rebounds and five points in the first.
Ibaka needed three stitches to close a cut on his forehead after he was inadvertently elbowed by Leonard in the opening quarter. Ibaka returned to start the second and, despite a visible bump on his head, soon scored his first points by blowing past Embiid for a dunk.
Green scored nine points in the second, making three of Toronto’s four 3-pointers. Toronto shot 12 for 21 in the second while Philadelphia shot 6 for 20.
Leonard, who missed six of his first eight shots, punctuated Toronto’s decisive second quarter with a powerful one-handed slam, driving into the paint from near center court and splitting a pair of defenders to throw it down with 2.6 seconds left.
“That was pretty impressive,” Siakam said. “Plays like that always give us energy.”