TORONTO – Two of the best things going for the Toronto Raptors this season were the exact opposite on Wednesday.

Pascal Siakam, a potential All-NBA candidate, and Fred VanVleet, the Raptors’ lone all-star this season, both struggled during Toronto’s 104-101 overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series.

They each finished with only 12 points. Siakam didn’t score a single point in the entire second half and overtime and only attempted five field-goal attempts in those three periods — he took just one shot in overtime — while VanVleet was ineffective from the field the whole game, going 3-for-13 from the floor.

This lack of production from Toronto’s two stars is a key reason why the club is in a 3-0 hole, a deficit that no team in NBA history has ever come back from.

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According to the Raptors, however, the blame can’t be put on Siakam and VanVleet as they adapted to what was thrown their way.

“He didn’t get a lot of great looks,” Nurse said Wednesday night of Siakam’s scoreless second half. “He had a few, but I didn’t think he got a lot of great looks but, again, you’ve got to adjust to what the coverages are and I thought both he and Freddy did that. They got the ball around to some of the other guys and the other guys were beneficiaries of that.”

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Added VanVleet of his teammate’s second-half performance: “You’ve got to really break down the entire game: (OG Anunoby’s) getting a lot of space and opportunity. Gary (Trent Jr.), was great to have him back, he’s getting a lot of space and opportunity.

“So at this point of the year, Pascal is doing his job. He’s drawing a crowd. He’s going to get all the defensive attention. So he didn’t have an excellent shooting night, but I thought he was still aggressive, getting to his spots and kicking out and bringing enough attention.”

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VanVleet and Siakam combined for 13 assists, but only dropped five dimes in the second half and overtime.

Anunoby and Trent were both strong Wednesday, putting up 26 and 24 points, respectively, and scoring 25 points combined in the final three periods of the game.

As good as Toronto’s secondary options were — even setup by the squad’s primary scorers — the Raptors’ star duo didn’t measure up to what Sixers centre Joel Embiid brought to the game.

The 76ers star was seen defending Siakam through a lot of the second half, and that contributed to Philadelphia’s win as much as 33 points and game-winning shot.

“Playing against a guy like Pascal, obviously, he’s really good at what he does. He’s their best player,” said Embiid. “They run a lot of stuff through him and when I’m in that situation I lock in even more.

“To be able to defend their best player and make sure that nothing is easy or that he’s not really able to score is always a good recipe to win.”

Beyond their struggles in Game 3, Siakam and VanVleet have been poor over all three games of the series.

Siakam has put up good counting stats averaging 18.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game, but is only shooting 40.7 per cent from the field and 20 per cent from three-point range.

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It’s a similar story for VanVleet, who is averaging 16.7 points and 7.3 assists per contest, but is connecting on only 35.4 per cent of his attempts from the floor and just a third of the 11 three-pointers per game he’s attempting.

Compare that to the 27.7 points and 13.0 rebounds per game Embiid’s averaging on 51 per cent shooting from the field and it’s clear why Philly is preparing to bring out the broomsticks on Saturday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2022.

© 2022 The Canadian Press