PHILADELPHIA — Kawhi Leonard was sensational Thursday night in Toronto’s 116-95 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup. Pascal Siakam was pretty good, too.
The rest of the Toronto Raptors? Not so much.
Of the rest of those Raptors, though, none of them have the experience with the franchise that Kyle Lowry does. Lowry, who finished with seven points on 2-for-10 shooting and was a game-worst minus-28 in 38 minutes, declared the Raptors have to help Leonard out — especially himself.
“We’ve got to help him,” Lowry told ESPN. “I was literally saying it during the game. We have to help him. He’s doing everything he can possibly do offensively and defensively to f—ing win games, and myself, I’m not helping him enough.
“I’m not putting it on nobody else but me.”
Meanwhile, a bad night was made worse when Lowry, after boxing out Ben Simmons in the first half, appeared to take an elbow in the groin from Simmons in the first half of Thursday’s loss that sent him falling to the ground for several seconds before eventually getting to his feet.
None of the referees appeared to see the play, and the game continued without a stoppage. Lowry has a history with Simmons, as both were ejected from a game in Philadelphia in January and got into a spat late in a game also in Philly last season, but Simmons apologized to Lowry at halftime, saying he didn’t mean to do it.
“Yeah, he said it at halftime,” Lowry told ESPN. “Said he didn’t mean to. Scott [Foster] didn’t call it on the floor. It’s not like I’m going to dwell on it or bitch about it. It happened. It’s over now.
“We got our ass kicked after. It didn’t matter.”
When asked if Lowry thought the league should review the play for possible retroactive punishment, he told ESPN, “I’m personally not going to dwell on it. We have bigger things to fry than something that happened in the first [half] or whatever.”
Those things would, quite specifically, include both Lowry and center Marc Gasol giving them more offensively. For all of the (understandable) talk about Philadelphia’s starters entering this series, Toronto’s starting five has plenty of star power, as well.
Leonard and Siakam (20 points) did their part. Danny Green (13 points in 34 minutes) wasn’t bad, either. Lowry and Gasol, on the other hand — five and three-time All-Stars, respectively — didn’t come close matching the production on their glittering resumes. Both looked passive. Gasol was 2-for-6 and scored seven points while recording a minus-26 in 29 minutes.
Meanwhile, Philadelphia got dominant performances from Joel Embiid (33 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 blocks) and Jimmy Butler (22 points, 9 rebounds and 9 assists) and had all five starters finish in double figures.
“We’re being unselfish and we have to be more selfish,” Lowry told ESPN. “We have to help Kawhi and Pascal, and score more and be a little bit more assertive.
“We’re just being very … we’re passive. We’re too passive to a fault.”
Raptors coach Nick Nurse would agree, as he said after the game the Raptors will have no chance of evening up the series if his team doesn’t show up with more effort and energy in Game 4 on Sunday afternoon.
“Yeah, I think we got outplayed in just about every area we could get outplayed in,” Nurse said. “Just in overall physicality, energy, cutting, rebounding, passing, you know, all of that kind of stuff, we got thoroughly outplayed, and it’s been a while. Right? It’s been a while since we’ve seen this team play that way.
“I think the first adjustment, we’re going to have to make it, I guess we’re going to have to play all of them a lot harder. We’re going to have to play a hell of a lot more physical. I mean if we don’t do that, the prettiest things we decided to do offensively aren’t going to matter much.”
Besides Leonard — who was spectacular in defeat, finishing with 33 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists as he tried to keep Toronto in the game — there wasn’t much about Toronto’s performance that could be described as pretty. The Raptors besides Leonard, Siakam and Green were a combined 10-for-36 from the floor — including 2-for-14 from 3-point range.
Most of that burden, though, falls on Lowry. He is the lone holdover from Toronto’s playoff failures over the past several years — after Dwane Casey was fired and DeMar DeRozan was traded for Leonard last summer.
He has been in this place before. His teams have been down in playoff series. He has been criticized for his play in bad Raptors losses.
He hasn’t, though, been in this place when playing alongside Leonard, who Toronto specifically traded for to try lifting the Raptors to places they have never been.
Leonard looked capable of lifting the Raptors on Thursday, just as he has repeatedly throughout this postseason. Siakam, too, has stepped up in his third season in the league. But if the Raptors want to even this series with Philadelphia, they’re going to need Lowry to play far better in his hometown in Game 4 Sunday than he did in Thursday’s dud.
“I’ve got to play better,” Lowry told ESPN. “Literally that is the only thing that matters. I have to play better. Nothing else matters. Plus minus, charges, everything. Nothing else matters. I have to score the ball and play better offensively.
“If I can get close to where I can be, it would be a different series. We might be a little better off than 2-1, but it’s been like this all year for me. It’s been an up-and-down year for me, and I can’t dwell on anything but continue to try to get better at some point.
“Hopefully it’ll be Sunday.”
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