Kawhi Leonard got some help from his teammates to stay close and then finished it off himself.
Leonard on Sunday scored 39 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 1 minute, 1 second left as the Toronto Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 101-96 to even their Eastern Conference semi-final series at 2-2.
“Just really growing up learning from great players, I was fortunate enough to be on some good teams early, so I was able to see defenses and go on deep playoff runs, and I feel that helped me out today,” Leonard said.
Photo: Bill Streicher-USA Today
Marc Gasol scored 16 and Kyle Lowry had 14 as the Raptors rebounded after consecutive losses to reclaim home-court advantage.
“We needed some punch around the roster,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “It was a different mentality. Guys were looking to shoot, taking the first shot that was there.”
Game 5 is today in Toronto.
Jimmy Butler scored 29 and J.J. Redick had 19 for Philadelphia.
Joel Embiid struggled after scoring 33 points in Philadelphia’s 21-point victory in Game 3. The All-Star center played through an illness and only had 11.
Sixers coach Brett Brown said Embiid texted him early in the morning saying he was not sure if he could play.
“To his credit, he willed his way through it,” Brown said.
Butler banked in a three-pointer from the top of the circle as the shot clock expired after briefly losing the ball to give the Sixers an 84-81 lead in the fourth, but Gasol answered with a three to tie it and the Raptors went up 89-85 on Leonard’s jumper.
Butler and Leonard traded a pair of free throws, before Redick hit a three to cut it to 91-90 with 2:07 left.
Following a turnover, Embiid missed a layup. Leonard then nailed a step-back three to put Toronto up 94-90.
Danny Green made four free throws in the final minute to ice it.
Brown called Leonard’s three-pointer a “backbreaker” and compared his ability to create his own shot to Kobe Bryant.
The three-pointer came right before the shot clock expired and Leonard had Embiid in his face.
“I came off a pick-and-roll. They were switching. Embiid is a good defender, long, and I just wanted to get it to the back of the rim,” Leonard said.
In Portland, Oregon, Nikola Jokic had 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists for his second straight triple-double and fourth of the playoffs as the Denver Nuggets beat the Trail Blazers 116-112 to even their Western Conference semi-final series at 2-2.
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