Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) reacts as Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid (21) celebrates the 76ers win with forward Tobias Harris (12) in overtime NBA first round playoff action in Toronto on Wednesday April 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) reacts as Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid (21) celebrates the 76ers win with forward Tobias Harris (12) in overtime NBA first round playoff action in Toronto on Wednesday April 20, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Embiid hits dagger in OT and Sixers take 3-0 NBA series lead over Raptors

Toronto must dig out of massive hole in best-of-7 playoff matchup

Joel Embiid scored a dagger three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left in overtime to lift the Philadelphia 76ers to a 104-101 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday, taking a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Embiid finished with 33 points and 13 rebounds, spoiling the first Raptors playoff action in Toronto in three years.

OG Anunoby had 26 points for the Raptors, who led by as many as 17 points. Gary Trent Jr., scored a career playoff high 24 points despite fighting an illness the past week.

Precious Achiuwa had 20 points, while Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet both had off nights, with just 12 points apiece for the Raptors, who were missing NBA rookie of the year finalist Scottie Barnes.

The Raptors raced out to an early 17-point lead, finally looking like the team that won 14 of 18 games down the stretch. They shot 52.4 per cent in the first half and pestered Philly into 15 turnovers.

But the Raptors went flat in the third quarter, shooting just 1-for-7 from behind the arc, and when Embiid connected on a free throw with 5.5 seconds left in the frame, the Sixers had pulled to within 75-74 with one quarter to play.

Neither team led by more than three points in a hard-fought fourth quarter before VanVleet found Anunoby in the corner for a long bomb, and Achiuwa scored on a putback for a five-point cushion with two minutes to play.

Harden’s free throw with 49.7 seconds left tied the game. The former NBA MVP fouled out of the game 20 seconds later, cheered off the floor by the raucous crowd.

Achiuwa missed a pair of free throws with 27.2 seconds left, but Toronto locked down on the defensive end to force an extra period with the game tied 95-95.

In the extra period, Anunoby hit a clutch basket as the shot clock sounded for a one-point lead with 2:58 to play, but Embiid replied to put Philly back up. Embiid fouled Anunoby with 26.2 seconds left, and scored on one of his two free throws while a livid Sixers coach Doc Rivers raged at the official.

Green inbounded the ball with 2.6 seconds left and Embiid hit the winner to send Raptors fans home heartbroken.

The Raptors should get reinforcements for Game 4. Coach Nick Nurse expects Barnes, who sprained his left ankle in Game 1, to play Saturday. The finalist for rookie of the year wasn’t wearing a walking boot on the bench Wednesday, and was on his feet cheering for much of the game.

READ MORE: Siakam has 31 points, 13 boards as Raptors clinch playoff spot with win over Atlanta

The Raptors hadn’t made a playoff appearance in Toronto since Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals, a one-point loss to Golden State that was memorable for Kevin Durant’s ruptured Achilles tendon.

COVID-19 forced the 2020 season to finish in the NBA bubble at Disneyworld, and the Raptors were exiled in Tampa, Fla., last season due to border restrictions. A COVID outbreak in March of last season saw them somersault down the standings to finish 12th, the only year they’ve missed the playoffs in the past nine seasons.

The 76ers cruised to easy wins in Games 1 and 2, by scores of 131-11 and 112-97.

The Raptors jumped out to an early 10-point lead on Wednesday, forcing the Sixers to commit nine turnovers in the first quarter alone. Philadelphia turned the ball over just four times in all of Game 1.

Anunoby had 10 points in the frame and his three-pointer with 31 seconds left sent the Raptors into the second quarter up 29-19.

Toronto opened the second with a 9-2 run to go up by 17 points, but the Sixers battled back and Harden’s driving layup with 1:40 left cut the difference to just six points.

The quarter had some heated moments. VanVleet was whistled for a foul, and then a technical for angrily arguing the call after Embiid fell out of bounds as if blown over by a gust of wind.

Green picked up a technical for arguing a call, and it took a couple of two-handed chest shoves from Harden to get Green to head toward Philadelphia’s bench.

Game 5, if necessary, would be played Monday in Philadelphia.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press

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