TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors fell short in their bid for an historic NBA playoff comeback.
Chris Boucher had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Pascal Siakam added 24 points, but a poor shooting night and a discombobulated defensive effort saw the Raptors fall 132-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of their best-of-seven playoff series.
Joel Embiid had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Sixers, who won the series 4-2, and will face the Miami Heat in the second round.
Gary Trent Jr. finished with 19 points, while rookie Scottie Barnes had 18 points for the Raptors, who were playing without all-star guard Fred VanVleet.
The Raptors looked all but cooked after losing the series' first three games, but won two elimination games as hope grew among fans for an historic series win.
Coming off a dominant 103-88 win on Monday, the Raptors kept it within seven points for the first half despite horrible shooting. But they never looked in synch on either end of the floor all night, and the Sixers blew the game wide open with a 30-9 run in the third quarter.
The Sixers hit six threes in the quarter, to the groans of the Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 fans, and a Harden long bomb put Philly up by 22 points with 3:52 left in the frame. The visitors outscored Toronto 37-17 in the quarter, and led 99-78 to start the fourth.
A Barnes jumper less than a minute into the fourth slashed the difference to 18, but Embiid almost singlehandedly snuffed out any hopes of an improbable comeback, scoring 10 points in less than four minutes. And when Tobias Harris threw down a dunk with 4:34 to play, the basket put Philly up by 27 points.
Embiid ran back up the court with his arms outstretched like an airplane in celebration like he famously did in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals against Toronto. Boos rained down on the seven-foot centre.
Harris's three with 3:38 to play saw the Sixers go up by 32 points, and sent numerous fans heading for the exits.
Siakam fouled out of the game with 2:14 to play, and received a standing ovation as he left the game. The Scotiabank Arena crowd chanted “Let's go Raptors!” as Nurse subbed off his starters at that point.
The Raptors shot just 7-for-35 -- 20 per cent -- from three-point range, and 39.3 per cent from the field. Philly shot 40 per cent from long distance and a whopping 58 per cent from the field.
Numerous Toronto athletes were on hand to witness the loss, including Maple Leafs Auston Matthews, Morgan Rielly, Mitch Marner, Alexander Kerfoot and Wayne Simmonds, Toronto FC's Ayo Akinola and Ifunanyachi Achara, and former Raptor Cory Joseph.
The Raptors sorely missed the steady hand of three-point specialist VanVleet, who sat his second straight game with a strained left hip flexor. The Raptors struggled from long distance all series. Nick Nurse kept saying they were due for a big three-point shooting game.
“They're going to start going in, I keep saying that,” Nurse said after Wednesday's practice. “Next game will be as good as any for them to start going in.”
It wasn't to be.
The Raptors' loss ended a season that began with low expectations, but picked up momentum after the all-star break when the Raptors won 14 of their final 18 games.
With their win in Philly on Monday, the Raptors became the 14th team -- and first since Milwaukee in 2015 -- to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0. The Bucks went on to lose 6-2 to Chicago. In the league's 75-year history, 146 teams have faced 3-0 deficits in seven-game series.
The Raptors were looking to become the fourth NBA team to force a Game 7 after trailing 3-0. The Portland Trail Blazers, in 2003, were the most recent team to do it, against the Dallas Mavericks. The Denver Nuggets, in 1994, climbed back from a 3-0 deficit, as did the New York Knicks in the 1951 NBA Finals. All three, of course, lost Game 7.
The Raptors hit seven of their first eight shots, then went more than five minutes without a field goal, missing 10 straight shots. Harden, who had just 15 points in Game 5, had 10 in the quarter, and the Sixers led by seven a couple of times. Philly was up 34-29 to start the second.
A Boucher three-pointer highlighted a 15-5 run to start the second that saw the Raptors go up by five. Green had four three-pointers and 12 points in the quarter as the Sixers battled back, and led 62-61 at halftime.
The Raptors shot just 3-for-15 from long distance in the first half.
The Sixers were without Matisse Thybulle, who isn't eligible to travel to Toronto because he's not fully vaccinated for COVID-19.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2022.