Monday's NBA playoffs: 76ers snap 14-game skid in Toronto, pull even in East semifinal
Toronto — Jimmy Butler’s big game helped Philadelphia snap a lengthy losing streak in Toronto and, more importantly, brought the 76ers level in their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Butler had 30 points and 11 rebounds, James Ennis scored 13 points and the 76ers held on to beat the Raptors, 94-89, on Monday night, knotting the series 1-1.
It was Philadelphia’s first win in Toronto since Nov. 10, 2012, snapping a 14-game losing streak.
“Everybody wants to paint the picture that we haven’t won here in however many years,” Butler said. “I’m just glad that we came out on top. We don’t care how many games we’ve lost, nothing like that.”
Butler scored 12 in the final quarter to help the 76ers withstand a late Toronto rally.
“He was just a tremendous rock,” coach Brett Brown said. “He willed us to a lot of different situations. He was a stud.”
Butler scored just 10 points in Game 1, when he shot 4 for 12.
“Jimmy Butler is a gamer,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “He wasn’t going to be quiet this whole series.”
Game 3 is Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Down 19 in the first half, Toronto cut the deficit to one late in the third, only to go cold to start the fourth, missing six of its first seven shots.
The Raptors kept coming, however. Lowry made 3-pointers on both sides of a pair of foul shots by Butler cutting it to 90-87 with 1:36 to go. Toronto got the ball back, and Siakam scored on a layup to make it a one-point game, but Joel Embiid answered with a driving shot at the other end, restoring the three-point advantage with 24 seconds left.
After Lowry nearly turned the ball over, Danny Green missed a potential tying 3, and Philadelphia’s Tobias Harris came up with the rebound, his 11th. Harris was fouled and sealed it by making a pair with 3.9 seconds left.
“We got lucky there at the end,” Brown said.
Embiid scored 12 points in 32 minutes despite missing the morning shootaround because of flu-like symptoms. Brown said Embiid received intravenous fluids before the game.
“Full credit all over the place to Joel,” Brown said.
Embiid acknowledged feeling rough, but refused to sit out.
“There’s no way I was missing this game,” he said. “This game was really important to us. It doesn’t matter what I had, I was going to play.”
Kawhi Leonard scored 35 points, Siakam had 21 and Lowry 20. Toronto shot 10-for-37 from 3-point range and 33 for 91 overall as its franchise-record five game postseason winning streak came to an end.
“We didn’t play well tonight,” Lowry said. “They played really desperate and played super hard tonight and they got a victory.”
Toronto missed six of its first eight shots, matching the number of misses it had in the first quarter of Game 1, when the Raptors were 16-of-22. Toronto shot 7-for-24 in the first and missed its first seven from 3-point range before Norm Powell connected.
Butler scored six points for Philadelphia, who led 26-17 after one. Toronto got 17 from both Leonard and Siakam in the first quarter of Game 1, when they scored 39 points.
Ennis and Butler each scored seven points in the second and Philadelphia led 51-38 at the half.
Leonard scored seven more as Toronto used a 13-4 run out of the break to cut the gap to 55-51. Leonard had 11 points in the third and Siakam had seven. Toronto trailed 61-60 with 2:50 left in the quarter but Embiid made four free throws before the quarter ended and the 76ers took a 69-63 lead to the fourth.
Nuggets take Game 1 vs. Trail Blazers
In Denver, Nikola Jokic scored 37 and the Nuggets withstood Damian Lillard’s 39-point effort and Enes Kanter’s strong return to Portland’s lineup in a 121-113 win over the well-rested Trail Blazers in the opener of their second-round playoff series Monday night.
Lillard, who struck for 50 points, including a 37-footer at the buzzer to oust Oklahoma City in five games, missed 8 of 12 3-point attempts and Gary Harris (Michigan State) blocked his 3 from behind in the closing minute to keep the Trail Blazers from closing in.
Jamal Murray added 23 points for Denver, which was making its first appearance in the second round in a decade, and Paul Millsap scored 19.
Game 2 is Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center.
Back-to-back layups by Lillard pulled Portland to within five points with nine minutes left, but Jokic sank a pair of free throws off CJ McCollum’s flagrant foul sandwiched by a pair of dunks by Mason Plumlee as Denver pushed its lead back to double digits at 107-96.
Portland never got much closer.
New deal for Pop?
The Spurs suffered through an odd, erratic season filled with injuries, strife and drama before a second straight ouster from the playoffs in the first round.
Gregg Popovich enjoyed it so much he is coming back for a 24th season as coach in San Antonio.
Normally extremely private, Popovich said Monday he is negotiating a new deal with the Spurs after his current contract expired this season. There was some uncertainty surrounding his return, but the 70-year-old Popovich put an end to that with a quip or two.
“I’m currently in negotiations and could very well end up with either the Portofino Flyers or the Positano Pirates (or the Spurs),” Popovich said dryly. “I think it’s like one-third Positano, one-third Portofino and one-third San Antonio. So, we’ll see where I end up.”
There is little chance Popovich ends up anywhere but San Antonio, where he has enjoyed unprecedented success. His desire to return was apparent during an 18-minute news conference to wrap up a season that ended with a loss to the Denver Nuggets in Game 7 of their first-round series.
Popovich has 1,245 wins, third-most in NBA history behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens, and is one of five coaches to win five NBA championships. He will coach USA Basketball in the FIBA World Cup in China this summer, and will coach the Americans in the Tokyo Olympics next summer should the team qualify.
Paul fined $35K
Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul has been fined $35,000 for what the NBA called “aggressively confronting and recklessly making contact” with an official during Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals.
The fine was handed down Monday by league discipline executive Kiki VanDeWeghe.
The incident occurred with 4.4 seconds remaining in the Rockets’ 104-100 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday. Paul was automatically ejected for a second technical foul for brushing referee Josh Tiven while arguing that Warriors guard Klay Thompson committed a loose-ball foul against him.
Paul said afterward he wasn’t sure what he did wrong and wouldn’t say whether he made contact with Tiven while arguing.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is Tuesday night at Oracle Arena.