Toronto Raptors eliminated from NBA playoffs

The Toronto Raptors have failed in their bid for a historic NBA playoff return.

Chris Boucher had 25 points and 10 rebounds, while Pascal Siakam added 24 points, but a poor shooting night and baffled defensive effort saw the Raptors fall 132-97 to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 6 of their series best-of-seven playoff.

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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 star guard Fred VanVleet.

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Raptors take on 76ers in Game 6

Raptors take on 76ers in Game 6

The Raptors looked nearly cooked after losing the first three games of the series, but won two playoff games as hopes grew among fans for a historic series victory.

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After a dominating 103-88 win on Monday, the Raptors kept it within seven points for the first half despite some horrific shooting. But they never looked in sync at either end of the floor all night, and the Sixers opened the game with a 30-9 run in the third quarter.

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The Sixers hit six threes in the quarter, to the groans of the Scotiabank Arena crowd of 19,800 fans, and a long bombshell from Harden gave Philly a 22-point lead 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 cut the difference to 18, but Embiid almost single-handedly dashed any hopes of an unlikely comeback, scoring 10 points in less than four minutes. And when Tobias Harris threw a dunk with 4:34 left, the basket gave Philly 27 points.

Embiid ran up the field with his arms outstretched like an airplane in celebration like he did in the 2019 Eastern Conference Semifinals against Toronto. Boos rained down on the seven-foot center.

Harris’ three with 3:38 left saw the Sixers up 32 points and sent many fans heading for the exits.

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Siakam fouled out of the game with 2:14 remaining and received a standing ovation as he left the game. The Scotiabank Arena crowd chanted “Let’s go Raptors!” as Nurse replaced his starters at that time.

The Raptors shot just 7 for 35 — 20 percent — from three-point range and 39.3 percent from the field. Philly shot 40% from long range and 58% from the field.

Many 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 went into his second straight game with a strained left hip flexor. The Raptors have struggled long range all series. Nick Nurse kept saying they were due for a big three-point shooting game.

“They’re going to start coming in, I keep saying that,” Nurse said after practice Wednesday. “The next game will be as good as any for them to start coming in.”

This was not to be the case.

The Raptors’ loss ended a season that started with low expectations but gained momentum after the All-Star break when the Raptors won 14 of their last 18 games.

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With their win at Philly on Monday, the Raptors became the 14th team — and the first since Milwaukee in 2015 — to force a Game 6 after leading 3-0. The Bucks then lost 6-2 to Chicago. In the league’s 75-year history, 146 teams have faced 3-0 deficits in seven games.

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The Raptors were looking to become the fourth NBA team to force a Game 7 after leading 3-0. The Portland Trail Blazers, in 2003, were the last team to do so, against the Dallas Mavericks. The Denver Nuggets in 1994 came 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 basket, 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 few times. Philly led 34-29 to start the second.

A three-point Boucher highlighted a 15-5 run to start the second that saw the Raptors move up five. Green had four three-pointers and 12 points in the quarter as the Sixers fought back and led 62-61 at halftime.

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The Raptors shot just 3 of 15 from long range in the first half.

The Sixers were without Matisse Thybulle, who is ineligible to travel to Toronto as he is not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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