Leonard scores 35 points but gets little help in 94-89 loss to Philadelphia

76ers 94 Raptors 89

(Series tied at 1-1)

TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors couldn’t overcome one of their worst first halves of the playoffs on Monday.

Leonard scored 20 of his 35 points in the second half, but got little help from his teammates and the Raptors fell 94-89 to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series heads to Philadelphia for Thursday’s Game 3 tied at one game apiece.

Jimmy Butler had 30 points and 11 rebounds to top the Sixers, while Joel Embiid, who was a game-time decision after battling the stomach flu, finished with 12 points.

Pascal Siakam had 21 points for the Raptors, who overcame a 19-point deficit to make it a game down the stretch. Kyle Lowry had 20 points, while no other Raptor scored in double figures. The next best Raptor? Marc Gasol with five points.

It was no surprise the Sixers came out a different team than the one the Raptors ran roughshod over in Game 1.

“That’s normally the case from the team that goes down 0-1 or loses the last game,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said pre-game. “I think that’s always the thing you remember.”

The Raptors apparently forgot. Toronto was outscored in the first quarter for the first time this post-season and trailed by 19 points midway through the second.

In an offence that moved like sludge, Leonard managed 15 first-half points despite facing a swarm of Philly defenders. The rest were terrible, shooting 9-for-36 combined. The best three-point shooting team in the league hit just three of their 15 shots from behind the arc. And they were thoroughly outhustled, managing a woeful 13 rebounds to Philly’s 33.

If there was a positive, it’s that as terrible as Toronto was, the home team only trailed by 13 at the break.

The Raptors found another gear in the third, outscoring the Sixers 25-18, holding them to 29 per cent shooting, including 0-for-11 from three-point range, and when Gasol connected on a pair of free throws with 2:50 left in the quarter, it capped a 17-8 Raptors run and sliced the deficit to just a point.

The Raptors trailed 69-63 to start the fourth, but shot 1-for-7 to begin the frame and when Simmons strolled through Toronto’s defence for an easy layup with 8:43, it was back to an 11-point deficit. The visitors would go up by 13 before the Raptors clawed their way back, a pair of three-pointers by Lowry cutting the deficit to three points with 1:36 to play. A Siakam basket with 46 seconds left made it a one-point game.

A big basket by Embiid gave the 76ers a three-point lead, and Green — who was 1-for-6 from the three-point line on the night — missed on a three-point attempt with about five seconds to play and it was game over.

A frustrated capacity Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 that included Nashville Predators defenceman P.K. Subban and his girlfriend and Olympic downhill champion Lindsey Vonn, Maple Leafs star Mitch Marner, and Canadian tennis players Milos Raonic and Bianca Andreescu, beat a hasty exit.

The Raptors shot just 27 per cent from the three-point line and were clobbered on the boards 53-36.

For a brief couple of minutes, the Raptors looked like the dominant team of Game 1, grabbing an early 4-0 lead. But Toronto couldn’t buy a basket — only four Raptors scored in the first quarter — and the Sixers went on a 21-10 run to take a 26-17 lead into the second.

Leonard had 11 points in the second quarter, but he got little help from his teammates, and when Butler shot the technical after Nurse argued a call, his shot gave the 76ers a 19-point lead. Butler would convert a five-point play — he was fouled on a three-pointer and Danny Green was whistled for a technical — later in the quarter. Green’s three with 12 seconds left sliced Philly’s lead to 51-38 at halftime.

Game 4 is Sunday in Philadelphia then the series returns to Toronto for Game 5.

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