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Short-handed Raptors fall into 0-2 hole as 76ers dominate on home court

Joel Embiid had 31 points and 11 rebounds and the Philadelphia 76ers defeated the undermanned Toronto Raptors 112-97 on Monday in Philadelphia to take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

OG Anunoby had 26 points for the Raptors, who were playing without prized rookie Scottie Barnes, who suffered a left ankle sprain in Game 1 and sat courtside in a walking boot. An ailing Gary Trent Jr., started the game but played only nine minutes.

Pascal Siakam had 20 points and 10 rebounds for Toronto. Fred VanVleet scored 20 points and Chris Boucher concluded with 17 points and eight rebounds.

The best-of-seven series now heads to Toronto for Game 3 on Wednesday, the first time Scotiabank Arena has hosted playoff basketball since Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 2019.

In one of their worst games all season, the Raptors looked little like the team that took three of four games off Philadelphia in the regular season.

Toronto got off to a strong start and led by a point at the end of the first quarter, but then went ice cold, missing 14 consecutive field goals in a dry spell that straddled the second and third quarters.

When Embiid knocked down a three-pointer late in the third, the Sixers went up by 27 points to the delight of the noisy Wells Fargo Arena. Philly took a 95-71 advantage into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors finally showed some life in the fourth, slicing the difference to just 11 points with a 15-0 run punctuated by an Anunoby three-pointer.

The Sixers hit back though and when former Raptor Danny Green drove to the hoop for a dunk, Philadelphia was back up by 19 with 4:18 to play.

VanVleet knocked down a three with 1:12 to play that made it a 12-point game, but Toronto couldn’t get the deficit to single digits.

Trent averaged 18 points versus Philadelphia in the regular season, but struggled mightily on Monday. He was held without a point and committed four fouls before calling it a night and heading to the locker-room early in the third quarter.

Barnes, meanwhile, put on a brave face at shootaround Monday. The finalist for NBA rookie of the year, who was two assists shy of a triple-double in his playoff debut Saturday, said his ankle was “feeling better, each and every day, for sure.”

Embiid’s 19 first-quarter points — 11 of them from the free-throw line — matched his entire Game 1 total. But the Raptors got off to a hot start, taking an early nine-point lead.

VanVleet had four three-pointers and 15 points in the frame, and the Raptors led 33-32 to start the second. It was the first time Toronto had led Philadelphia after the first quarter all season.

The Raptors went cold in the second quarter, shooting 1-for-8 from long distance, and 34.8 per cent from the field. On the defensive end, they permitted the Sixers to shoot 57.9 per cent.

Harden’s finger roll midway through the frame capped a 27-13 Sixers run that had them up by 13. They took a 67-52 advantage into the halftime break.

Embiid and the Sixers beat up Toronto in a 131-111 rout in Saturday’s Game 1, prompting Raptors coach Nick Nurse to challenge the officials before tipoff on Monday.

“There were several shots to the face, which I don’t understand [why they] were not reviewed,” Nurse said. “I hope they’ve got enough guts to at least stop the game and look at that stuff tonight.

“I don’t mind physicality and we expect it to get physical. We’ve got to be able to handle it.” Game 4 is Saturday in Toronto. The series would head back to Phily for Game 5 if necessary.

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