Joel Embiid’s OT game-winner pushes Raptors to the brink
What to know about the 2022 NBA playoffs
Embiid, who earlier this week was named one of three NBA MVP finalists, opened play near the free throw line and waited for Tyrese Maxey and Georges Niang to curl up the key. Once the two were clear of the way, Embiid used a screen from Tobias Harris to break free from the Raptors cross Precious Achiuwa and race for the ball.
Danny Green found Embiid with a pass from the left corner, and the 7-footer received the ball turning to his right so he could get closer to the basket. As Raptors guard Fred VanVleet ran to challenge the shot, Embiid threw a three-pointer that left his hand before the shot clock expired and crossed with less than a second left in overtime that secured a 104-101 victory.
“It’s one of my favorite places,” Embiid said. “Great play call. Tobias created an amazing screen. Danny made a great pass. I just had to finish it. I’m glad I did. [Harris] opened me up so much. He’s the reason I fired.
Embiid finished with a game-high 33 points and 13 rebounds to give Philadelphia a 3-0 series lead and a chance to sweep Toronto in Game 4 on Saturday.
The dramatic winner recalled Embiid’s last playoff game in Toronto: a Game 7 loss in the second round of the 2019 playoffs. In that fierce fight, Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard knocked out the 76ers with a buzzer -base batsman who bounced off the rim four times before entering.
“We know what happened a few years ago,” Embiid said. “It’s always a tough place to play, especially in the playoffs. They have big fans. They are noisy. I knew I was definitely going to be the bad guy. The work is not done. We need to get one more.
For the Raptors, it was a painful end to a night of missed opportunities as they blew a 17-point lead early in the second quarter and a five-point lead with two minutes left in regulation time. Toronto also had several opportunities to make potentially game-winning free throws, but couldn’t convert.
After Philadelphia’s James Harden tied the game at 95 in the final minute of regulation time, Achiuwa fouled with less than 30 seconds left and had two free throw attempts to put Toronto back in front. Achiuwa, 22, who finished with 20 points in 36 minutes off the bench, missed both and the game went to overtime.
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In the extra period, Raptors forward OG Anunoby was fouled with 26 seconds left and the 76ers clung to a 101-100 lead. While Anunoby finished with a team-high 26 points and made his first attempt, he missed the second, setting up Embiid’s heroism.
“That’s pretty much the toughest loss I can remember here,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who is in his fourth season, said. “If we pull this stuff off, we get ourselves a series. Instead, you’ve got yourself a really, really deep hole to dig.