Siakam shines in a must-win game as the Raptors avoid elimination with a win over the 76ers

The Toronto Raptors lived to see another game.

Pascal Siakam had his best 34 points of these playoffs, and the Raptors beat the visiting 76ers 110-102 on Saturday to avoid elimination in their first-round playoff series.

Game five of the best-of-seven set begins Monday in Philadelphia.

Gary Trent Jr. scored 24 points, Thaddeus Young added 13 and OG Anunoby finished with 11 for the Raptors, who played more than half the game without injured star guard Fred VanVleet.

WATCH l Siakam records a playoff career-high 34 points as Toronto avoids a sweep against the 76ers:

Siakam stars in the Raptors’ Game 4 victory over the 76ers

Pascal Siakam recorded a playoff career-high 34 points as Toronto avoided the sweep with a 110-102 victory. 2:32

Toronto’s NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes finished with six points and 11 rebounds in his return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle.

CLOCK | Barnes takes home rookie of the year honors:

Scottie Barnes receives his Rookie of the Year award from Masai Ujiri

Barnes was honored on center court before Game 4 of Toronto’s matchup against the 76ers. 0:57

James Harden had 22 points for Philly, while Joel Embiid, playing through a thumb injury, finished with 21.

While the Raptors led by as much as 17 points on Wednesday before their heartbreaking overtime loss, Game 4 was a close battle from the start. The Raptors cobbled together a 12-point cushion in the second quarter, but the Sixers closed the gap and the Raptors entered the fourth quarter with an 80-77 lead.

The Sixers cut the lead to one point, but the Raptors responded with a 6-0 run, and when Young took the ball from Embiid and Precious Achiuwa finished off with a basket, the Raptors went up by seven with 9:11 left.

Anunoby drilled a 3-pointer, then Siakam hit a pair of free throws for a 14-point lead with 3:28 left. The Sixers fell apart in the final minutes. Embiid received a technical whistle as he checked Siakam’s body.

Achiuwa gave the Raptors a 14-point lead when she cut the defense to the basket with 1:28 left, much to the delight of a raucous Scotiabank Arena crowd that included singer Avril Lavigne.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse emptied his bench with 1:19 left, as the crowd chanted “Raps in seven!”

Siakam’s solid play came three days after he scored just 12 points — and zero in the second half — in Game 3 and vowed to be more aggressive.

No team in NBA history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a series, which Nurse called a “soaring challenge,” saying “someone has to do it.” Thirteen NBA teams have come back from 3-1 deficits to win series, including the Denver Nuggets, who did it twice in the 2020 playoffs.

Barnes earned a standing ovation when team president Masai Ujiri presented his rookie of the year award before kickoff. Former Raptor great Vince Carter had broken the news to the 20-year-old via video during a team practice.

Raptors Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes (right) guards 76ers guard James Harden. Barnes returned to Toronto’s lineup after missing the last two games due to injury. (Alex Lupul/CBC)

Injuries accumulate.

VanVleet, who had missed 13 games down the stretch with a bruised right knee, left the game with a left hip strain late in the second quarter. He limped awkwardly down the court, grabbing the collar of his jersey with both hands and tearing at it in frustration. He limped straight to the locker room.

Embiid, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer in Wednesday’s 104-101 overtime victory, played through a thumb injury that is feared to be a torn tendon. He repeatedly taped his hand with a grimace on Saturday. He will undergo an MRI shortly.

“I think we already know what it is, to be honest, but we have to make sure,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said. “We feel like it’s not a big injury, and I’ll leave it at that.”

Siakam led the way with 10 points in a see-saw first quarter in which no team led by more than four points. The Raptors shot just 2-for-9 from 3-point range but did enough to get into second tied with Philly at 24-24.

Trent Jr. scored 12 points in the second and his run 3-pointer with about four minutes left in the fourth capped a 26-11 Raptors run and saw them go up by 12. The Sixers closed out on an 11-4 run, and The Raptors led 54-49 at halftime.

The Sixers won Games 1 and 2 in Philadelphia by scores of 131-111 and 112-97.

The series would return to Toronto for Game 6, if necessary.

This series is the Raptors’ first playoff action at Scotiabank Arena since the 2019 championship race. The Raptors dispatched the Sixers in seven games in that year’s conference semifinals.

The Raptors have been swept in three playoff series, twice by Cleveland in 2017 and 2018 and by Washington in 2015.

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