76ers, Butler look to maintain home-court against Raptors
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jimmy Butler has been the adult in the gym for the 76ers.
Figuratively speaking of course.
That is Philadelphia coach Brett Brown’s way of saying that Butler has delivered when the Sixers really needed him. The four-time All-Star was clutch in the 76ers taking home-court advantage from Toronto with 30 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in Game 2.
Now with the Eastern Conference semifinal tied at 1-1, the series shifts to Philadelphia for Thursday’ Game 3.
Butler may be the third option at times on a team with All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but Butler was the difference Tuesday in the 76ers getting their first win in Toronto since Nov. 10, 2012.
“It’s going to be hard to shut everybody down,” Butler said. “But at the same token, they’ve got guys that can do the same thing. As much as we talk about the (star) power both teams have, it’s all about making the others take the most contested shots, rebound, not turn the ball over and guard.”
Butler’s playoff performance has been what the 76ers expected when they acquired him from Minnesota in November to help them make a deep playoff run. The Sixers reached the East semis last season and both team owner Josh Harris and Brown issued the challenge for the franchise to go further — or else.
Now, a major shake-up could still loom — on the roster and on the bench — if the Sixers can’t solve the Raptors. Butler’s future has been a major question mark because he, along with trade-deadline pickup Tobias Harris, is a free agent and could command max money on the open market. Butler seems to be a good fit in Philly, both in postseason production and as a fiery leader.
Brown has admired Butler’s rise in the organization and attempted to praise his Game 2 performance by calling him James Butler.
“My name isn’t James,” Butler said when told of Brown’s comments. “It is literally Jimmy.”
The awkward back-and-forth aside, Butler and the 76ers will need to play well to hang onto home-court.
The Raptors are headed to town stout in their belief that they can rebound from their 10 of 37 shooting performance from 3-point range and steal a pair in Philly.
“We’ve been here before. It’s nothing new to us,” Raptors forward Norman Powell said. “I don’t think anybody’s worried. We’re very confident in what we can do. We know we missed a lot of shots in Game 2 that we normally make. We know we’re going to make those shots in the next game.”
The Raptors decided not to relive the dismal effort Wednesday and skipped film review.
“We’re getting a little filmed out,” coach Nick Nurse said.
Kyle Lowry, a former Villanova star, and Kawhi Leonard would love to give the Raptors something worth watching.
RAPTORS AT 76ERS
Toronto and Philadelphia are tied 1-1. Game 3, 8 p.m. EDT, ESPN
NEED TO KNOW: The Raptors are a slight favorite at minus-1 after the Sixers opened favored by 1½. Total is 216½. ... The Sixers haven’t won a second-round series since 2001.
INJURY WATCH: 76ers reserve Mike Scott practiced Wednesday after missing the first two games of the series with a bruised heel and plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Scott’s not the only one feeling the pinch in the postseason: a fan with the handle @mdelNBA tweeted he’d get a Scott tattoo if he reached 1,000 followers in 24 hours. Sure enough, the stunt ensured the fan hit the modest milestone and the user Waiting for Playoff Anzejs tweeted a photo of “Mike Scott Hive” on his left side. Scott found the fan and got him tickets for Game 4 in Philly on Sunday. “I’ve never had fans like this,” Scott said. “I feel like I’m one of them.”
KEEP AN EYE ON: Raptors guard Danny Green, who missed all three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter of Game 2, including one that would have forced overtime. “I could probably use a little more arc on my shot, but some games it goes that way,” he said. Toronto should be in better shape if it goes Green’s way in Game 3.
PRESSURE IS ON: Butler, who said at Wednesday’s practice, “we’re not letting the media tear us apart.” Brown said the Sixers had been motivated in part by a poll of six Sixers beat writers who picked the team to lose the series. An ESPN Forecast that posted a percentage chance of each of the four remaining East teams to make the NBA Finals had the Sixers at 0 %.