TORONTO – The Philadelphia 76ers beat the Toronto Raptors 94-89 in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals thanks to an efficient performance from Jimmy Butler, who scored 30 points as Philly tied the series at 1-1 on Monday.
Butler added 11 rebounds and five assists as the 76ers overcame their 108-95 Game 1 loss.
But the former Chicago Bull was quick to dismiss his own offensive efforts as the main reason for his team’s win.
“We guarded. I think that’s the reason we won,” Butler said. “We just did our job. I’m glad we came out on top.”
After scoring early, the Raptors were soon behind as the 76ers took control with a strong start to the game, ending the first quarter with a nine-point lead.
Kyle Lowry, who finished with 20 points and five rebounds and five assists, was making the early in roads for the Canadian club, who finished one spot ahead of Philadelphia in third place in the Eastern Conference regular season.
Kawhi Leonard led the scoring for the home team with 35 points, while Pascal Siakam, who was guarded by compatriot Joel Embiid for the night, was limited to 21 points.
But no other player managed more than five points for Toronto, whose fringe players failed to step up.
“They came out more aggressive than us, we didn’t come out with a sense of urgency. We didn’t play well,” Lowry said. “They played really desperate and super hard tonight, and they got a victory.”
After Game one, Philadelphia coach Brent Brown praised Raptors’ Marc Gasol for his excellent defense performance and Serge Ibaka who was able to nullify the threat of 76er’s Joel Embiid.
And while he was less effective on offense, Embiid was pivotal in keeping the Raptors, and in particular Siakam, at bay.
“The goal was to make him drive, make him go left, and we did a good job today,” Embiid said.
While the Raptors were able to reduce the deficit in the second quarter, they came out of half time with a renewed vigor that saw them dominate in the third.
Leonard started to have more impact on proceedings, dictating plays as well as finishing them off.
Toronto had closed the gap to a handful of points by the start of the closing frame, only to see Philadelphia start the fourth quarter with confidence and open a 13-point gap with five minutes left that looked likely to effectively kill off the game.
But a late surge from the Raptors, led by Leonard and Siakam, closed the gap to three points with 24 seconds remaining.
In the final possession, Lowry’s mistake turned the ball over to the 76ers to see the game out.
Game 3 sees the series shift to Philadelphia on Thursday.