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Short of a few whistles the Raptors got just about everything they wanted out of Saturday’s Game 4.
But the only thing that really mattered in the end was the result and that, for the first time in these playoffs, was in Toronto’s favor as it extended the first-round series to a fifth game with a 110-102 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.

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Joel Embiid, who dominated the series’ first three games — all Sixers wins — was held to 21 points and eight rebounds as the Raptors sent multiple bodies at the Philly big man, forcing the ball out of his hands. Embiid did not handle the pressure well, committing a game-high five turnovers accounting for one third of the Sixers total in the game.

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From Precious Achiuwa to Pascal Siakam to Thad Young and even some Chris Boucher, Embiid did not have a lot of room to maneuver, but it worked well for the Raptors.

Embiid came into the game with this right thumb taped. There are suggestions he may have a torn ligament but that won’t be confirmed until he gets some imaging done on it Monday in Philly.

Either way, it’s an impediment that helped the Raptors on Saturday afternoon’s season-saver and should help them in Game 5 on Monday in Philadelphia.

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The Raptors have their own injury issues, however. All-star point guard Fred VanVleet left the game with about five minutes to play in the second quarter with a hip injury.

“I did talk to (trainer) Alex McKechnie before I came in here,” head coach Nick Nurse said at his post-game press conference. “He said it’s going to need some work. The imaging and the work will determine the next steps.”

Losing VanVleet for any portion of a game is tough. He’s the unquestioned leader of this group who puts everyone in position to best succeed. But the Raptors did welcome Scottie Barnes back into the rotation after a two-game absence.

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After being presented with his NBA rookie of the year trophy, Barnes wasn’t quite what he was before he sprained his ankle when Embiid stepped on him in Game 1. But he had an impact on the game, as he has in almost every one he has played in his rookie year.

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Barnes came off the bench about six minutes into the game and, when VanVleet was unable to return, assumed a chunk of the point-guard duties, as well. He wound up playing 25 minutes, pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds and chipping in with six points.

“I think that’s a great run out for him on that thing (ankle) to give him some confidence going forward,” Nurse said.

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The player of the game for the Raptors, though, was not in question — the same Pascal Siakam who was beating himself up just a day earlier for lacking aggressiveness in Game 3.
There was no shortage of that in Game 4 from Siakam, who finished with a post-season career-high 34 points on 19 shots and 15 attempts from the free-throw line.

“Yeah, I was probably more assertive,” Siakam said. “Not a lot of just looking around. Just taking whatever was there. Attacking, taking advantage of whatever I feel like, is an advantage and again making the right play, or at least trying to make the right play.”

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Siakam was a man who would not be denied on Saturday. Not by Embiid, not by Tobias Harris. It didn’t matter what the Sixers threw at him, Siakam seemed like he was either scoring from the field or going to the line all afternoon.

But even with VanVleet out of action for all of the second half and Barnes back — but not quite in attack mode yet — Siakam still had plenty of scoring support in this one.

Gary Trent Jr., healthy again after a nasty flu-bug pretty much erased him in Games 1 and 2, turned in his second consecutive 24-point playoff effort.

In the not quite-so-expected department were the13 points off the bench from Young, who played a series-high 30 minutes in Game 5, earning praise from teammates and coaches alike.

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The 14-year vet took his turn defending and handling Embiid, which isn’t totally surprising, but throwing in the 13 points made for a pretty special game.

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“He’s the ultimate pro, right,” said Siakam. “See him every day, he comes in, gets his work done, after, recovery, he’s just a professional with all that.”

Young was asked what it’s like trying to corral a player like Embiid.

“You ever see two bears fight before?” Young asked back. “He’s a big body, big strong guy. It’s not my first rodeo, my first time playing against him, so understanding when he’s coming down the court. A guy who played in this league a long time ago, Aaron McKie would tell me: ‘Do your work early,’ and it would always work out for me. So, I give him different looks on defense: Front him, three-quarter him, play behind him and push him off the block, make sure he catches the ball as far out as possible.”

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