Basketball / NBA

76ers bounce back, even series with Raptors


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,” Philadelphia 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 made 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, which led 26-17 after one. The Raptors 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 121, Trail Blazers 113

In Denver, Nikola Jokic scored 37 points and the Nuggets withstood Damian Lillard’s 39-point effort and Enes Kanter’s strong return to Portland’s lineup in a win over the well-rested Trail Blazers.

Lillard, who struck for 50 points, including a 12-meter shot at the buzzer to oust Oklahoma City in five games, missed 8 of 12 3-point attempts and Gary Harris blocked his 3 from behind in the closing minute to keep Portland 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 the Nuggets pushed their lead back to double digits at 107-96.

Portland never got much closer.

Denver was coming off a 90-86 win over San Antonio 48 hours earlier, its first Game 7 victory since May 3, 1978, against Milwaukee. The Trail Blazers, who are in the playoffs for the sixth straight season, had nearly a week off after dispatching Oklahoma City in five games to advance for the first time in three years.

Yet, the Nuggets had the energy at altitude and won the fourth time in five games.

Portland did get a boost from Kanter, who separated his left shoulder in Game 5 against the Thunder. He had 14 points by halftime when Portland trailed 58-55.

Kanter, who signed with Portland after being waived by the Knicks following the trade deadline, was originally a backup to starter Jusuf Nurkic, but his role was magnified when Nurkic broke his left leg March 25.