After pushing the Toronto Raptors to the brink of elimination, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid pledged to finish the job as quickly as possible.
Embiid made a 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in overtime to give the 76ers a 104-101 victory on Wednesday night and a 3-0 lead in their first-round series.
“I’m coming for the sweep, too,” Embiid told rapper Drake as he passed the Raptors’ celebrity fan on his way off the floor.
“I’ll be there,” Drake replied about Game 4, which is set for Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
After 76ers coach Doc Rivers called timeout to save the possession as the shot clock was running down, Embiid took an inbounds pass from Danny Green and hit a turnaround shot from near the sideline before running back to his bench in celebration.
“Great play call,” Embiid said. “Tobias set an amazing screen, Danny threw a great pass. All I had to do was finish, and I’m glad I did.
“It felt great but the job’s not done,” Embiid added. “We’ve got to get one more.”
Embiid’s shot came from near the spot where he missed a 3 at the end of regulation that could have won the game for the 76ers.
“For him, that’s a high-percentage shot, especially on that wing,” Harris said of Embiid’s decisive basket. “We got the ball to our best player, somebody who makes plays, makes shots.”
Toronto’s OG Anunoby couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer.
Embiid wouldn’t admit it, but all series he has seemed intent on avenging Philadelphia’s second-round defeat to Toronto in the 2019 playoffs, when Kawhi Leonard hit the game-winning shot in Game 7.
“Me and Joel have talked about that,” Harris said. “We understand coming to this arena, what happened to us last time we were here.”
While the subject may have come up before the playoffs, Embiid insisted it’s not on his mind right now.
“During this whole series I haven’t really thought about coming in here and trying to get my revenge,” he said. “I think I’m more focused on trying to win the whole thing.”
Embiid had 33 points and 13 rebounds, helping the 76ers rally from a 17-point deficit. James Harden had 19 points and 10 assists before fouling out in the closing seconds of regulation.
Embiid heard boos from the sellout crowd of 19,800 every time he touched the ball, and was targeted by profane chants at times, but stepped up when it mattered most.
“We’ve been watching his skill set all year long and how great he’s been,” Harden said. “Tonight was no different. He did all the right things, and when it was time for him to finish the game off, he did that.”
Tyrese Maxey scored 19 points and Tobias Harris had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the Sixers, who can complete the sweep Saturday.
“We’re playing for our pride,” Toronto guard Fred VanVleet said. “Pride is on the line.”
Anunoby scored 26 points, Gary Trent Jr. had a playoff-high 24, and Precious Achiuwa had 20 for the Raptors.
Pascal Siakam and VanVleet each had 12 points. VanVleet shot 3 for 13, going 2 for 10 from 3-point range.
“There’s no room to look around and feel sorry for ourselves,” VanVleet said. “We did a lot of good things tonight, we played a lot of minutes of great basketball and we’re going to have to do it again.”
Philadelphia never held a lead in regulation, finally grabbing a 99-97 edge on Maxey’s shot with 3:27 left in overtime.
“It took us all game to take the lead,” Maxey said. “When we got it, we didn’t keep it, but we won so it’s all good.”
Anunoby’s 3 briefly put Toronto back on top, but Embiid’s basket with 2:36 left made it 101-100 for the Sixers.
Embiid fouled Anunoby with 26 seconds left, and the Toronto forward made the first but missed the second, knotting it at 101-all.
Embiid shot 2 for 5 and scored five points in the first half but broke through with 18 points in the third.
Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes sat for the second straight game because of the sprained left ankle that knocked him out of Game 1. Toronto coach Nick Nurse said Barnes is making progress and could return Saturday.
The 76ers, who shot at least 30 free throws in each of the first two games of the series, went 15 for 20 from the line in Game 3, with Embiid making six of nine attempts.
Trent was limited to 10 minutes of action in Game 2 because of illness, and didn’t play in the second half Monday. After battling a fever and losing almost eight pounds, Trent played 45 minutes Wednesday, shooting 9 for 19.
“Just trying to push through,” Trent said.
Ahead 75-74 through three quarters, Toronto held a 95-90 lead on Achiuwa’s basket with 2:03 left.
Maxey scored to make it a three-point game, and Anunoby was called for goaltending on Harden’s shot with 1:14 left, cutting it to 95-94. After missing at one end, VanVleet fouled Harden with 49 seconds to play, but the Sixers guard missed his first shot before tying it 95-all with his second.
Harden fouled out with 27 seconds left, sending Achiuwa to the line, but the Toronto forward missed both shots.
Philadelphia had two chances to win it in regulation, but Embiid missed a 3 and Harris couldn’t convert after grabbing the rebound. (AP)
(Photo credits to: AP)