Game 3 between the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors blessed us with an epic ending. With 2.5 seconds remaining in overtime and the game tied at 101-101, Sixers All-Star center Joel Embiid knocked down arguably the biggest shot of his entire career.
The ball was inbounded to Embiid just beyond the 3-point line with less than a second remaining on the shot clock, and the big fella corralled the pass, turned and launched a shot over Raptors guard Fred VanVleet. The ball headed for the rim like a heat-seeking missile and hit nothing but the bottom of the net. Splash.
The shot — Embiid’s first career game winner — gave the Sixers a 104-101 lead, and in turn a commanding 3-0 series lead over Toronto. The series isn’t over, but such a lead has proven to be historically insurmountable in the past, as no team in league history has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
The shot had to be especially deflating for the Raptors after they had played their best game of the series, by far. Down 2-0 and obviously wanting to avoid falling into that 3-0 hole, Toronto came out with an added sense of urgency and intensity on Wednesday night, and led for a large portion of the game because of it. The Raptors had a 10-point lead after one quarter, and they maintained that lead heading into the halftime locker room.
The Sixers started to claw back in the second half, though, thanks largely to an 18-point third quarter from Embiid. Philadelphia cut Toronto’s lead to one after 36 minutes of action, and they were obviously able to tie it up by the end of regulation. In overtime, Embiid’s dagger ultimately proved to be the difference. The Sixers never had a single lead in the game until overtime. With that stat alone, the Raptors will have to feel like they let one slip away.
After having his and the Sixers’ playoff hopes dashed by a Raptors’ game winner in the very same arena back in 2019, it had to feel good for Embiid to get some payback. But while the big fella was obviously happy with the outcome of Game 3, he’s also acutely aware that the series isn’t over.
“That’s the best [shot of my career], but the job is not done,” Embiid said after the game. “We got one more, so we have to come back here in two days and try to beat them again.”
Embiid (33 points, 13 rebounds) led the way for Philadelphia in Game 3, but he also got his fair share of help, as he has all series. James Harden and Tyrese Maxey both scored 19 points, and Harden paired his point production with 10 assists. Tobias Harris also chipped in with a double-double (11 points, 12 rebounds). The Sixers have benefitted from a balanced scoring attack all series.
On the other side, OG Anunoby scored 26 points and grabbed five rebounds for Toronto, Gary Trent Jr. added 24 points despite battling an illness and Precious Achiuwa had 20 off the bench. As a team they forced 24 turnovers, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. After three games, it’s become clear that they’re overmatched in the series, and at this point any outcome other than the Sixers advancing would be shocking.
For Embiid, his overtime 3-pointer was the most memorable single shot of his career thus far, and while it might have been his first career game winner, there’s a good chance it won’t be his last.