Joel Embiid had knocked the air out of Toronto by the time he punctuated a Game 3 victory on Thursday night with a windmill dunk. Embiid sprinted down the court with his arms stretched out like airplane wings and the Philadelphia 76ers flying high in the post-season.
Embiid refused to get tripped up back in Philly, scoring 33 points and playing to “MVP!” chants to lead the Sixers to a 116-95 victory over Toronto Raptors.
Philadelphia took a 2-1 lead in the NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series.
“When I have fun, my game just changes,” Embiid said. “I’m always told if I don’t smile during the game it means I’m having a bad game or I’m not into it. I know to get my game going, I’ve got to have fun on the court.”
Embiid also had 10 rebounds, shaking off a pair of passive games and became the driving force on offense the Sixers needed as they chase their first NBA championship since 1983.
He made the game his own in the third quarter and helped the Sixers put away a Raptors team badly overmatched outside of Kawhi Leonard.
Embiid struck a chord when he buried a three-pointer in the third that stretched Philadelphia’s lead to 12. That was start of a string of plays that got Toronto’s attention.
Jimmy Butler, the Game 2 standout, dunked off his own steal and the Sixers had quickly put the game out of reach. Butler had 22 points.
Embiid scored another layup and waved his arms and pointed with a smile as wide as the hoop.
Embiid went nine of 18 from the floor and made 12 of 13 free throws.
It was moments like this why the 76ers endured the painful “Process” — the years of tanking seasons for high draft picks, like in 2014 when they drafted Embiid with the No. 3 overall pick.
The Sixers just had to survive Leonard.
Leonard made all six baskets and scored 14 points in the third quarter to cut the deficit to eight points.
Kyle Lowry and Danny Green offered little help (20 combined points) and Leonard could not carry the Raptors on his own.
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