MIAMI, United States, Aug 22 – The defending champions Toronto Raptors pummelled the Brooklyn Nets while the Boston Celtics had to claw past a determined Philadelphia on Friday, both taking commanding 3-0 series leads in the NBA playoffs.
Pascal Siakam scored 26 points, pulled down eight rebounds and handed out five assists to lead the Raptors to a 117-92 victory over the Nets.
Toronto connected on 50.5 percent of their shots from the field and 47.8 percent from three-point range.
Kyle Lowry came up just short of a triple-double with 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for a Raptors team that can clinch a second round berth in game four on Sunday.
“We’re just taking it a possession at a time,” Lowry said. “We can’t focus on anything else. Closeout games are always the toughest. We know they’re not going to lay down.”
Tyler Johnson led the Nets with 23 points, Caris LeVert added 15 and Chris Chiozza chipped in 14 off the bench, But as in Toronto’s game-one blowout win, Brooklyn never led.
The Celtics are also in control against the 76ers, although they had to battle a struggling but determined Philadelphia side to close out a 102-94 victory.
Kemba Walker scored 24 points and Jaylen Brown added 21 as the Celtics withstood a 30-point, 13-rebound performance from Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
Josh Richardson and Shake Milton added 17 points apiece and Tobias Harris scored 15 with 15 rebounds for Philadelphia, who connected on just 29.5 percent of their shots from the floor but kept themselves in it with hustle.
– Too many misses –
The Sixers out-rebounded the Celtics 57-45 and scored 20 second-chance points to Boston’s nine.
“Defensively we did what we needed to do to win a game,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “Offensively, the quantity of misses is hard to overcome.”
Jayson Tatum added 15 points for Boston, after averaging 32.5 over the first two games. He was limited by early foul trouble that saw him sit out all of the second quarter.
But Tatum came up with a key block of Embiid that led to the go-ahead basket late in the fourth quarter as Boston closed the game on a 10-0 scoring run.
Brown said the Sixers are well aware that no NBA team has rallied to win a playoff series after trailing 0-3.
Despite their dire situation, Embiid said he was focused on winning game four on Sunday.
“I don’t want to be swept,” Embiid said. “I don’t want that in my resume.”
In Western Conference action, the Utah Jazz cruised past the Denver Nuggets 124-87, taking a 2-1 series lead with their second straight lopsided win.
And the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Dallas Mavericks 130-122 to edge ahead 2-1 in their series.
Utah’s Mike Conley played his first playoff game in the bubble after leaving for the birth of his son and then quarantining for four days upon his return.
Conley made seven of eight three-point attempts on the way to 27 points, leading three Jazz starters with 20 or more.
Rudy Gobert added 24 points and 14 rebounds and Donovan Mitchell added 20 points and four rebounds. All got plenty of rest as well, sitting out much of the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
Kawhi Leonard scored 36 points and grabbed nine rebounds, leading seven Clippers players to score in double figures.
– ‘Incredible’ Leonard –
“I thought his playmaking was incredible tonight,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Leonard. “Obviously his scoring, his defense, but his playmaking sets a tone for everybody else.”
Leonard said he “just tried to be aggressive” as the Clippers bounced back from a game two defeat. “The whole team is being aggressive,” he said. “They’re helping me get easy shots.
“When you pass the ball they’re making it, and that’s how you get assists.”
After a physical first quarter the teams were tied at 23-23. But the Clippers had seized a 68-54 lead by halftime and never trailed after the break.
Even worse for the Mavericks, Luka Doncic sprained his left ankle in the third quarter.
The 21-year-old Slovenian left the court without putting weight on that leg but returned for the fourth quarter with the ankle heavily taped.
He was clearly hindered in three more minutes of action but handed out one last assist to post a triple-double of 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Doncic’s status for game four was unclear.
“It’s hard to say how this is going to be,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said. “We’ve got every advanced treatment modality here, as every team does, and we’ll see how this responds in the next 36 hours.”