TORONTO — After a dismal Game 1 loss, the Sixers got off to an impressive start in Game 2.
The Raptors scored just 38 points in the first half Monday night after scoring 39 in the first quarter Saturday. The Sixers held a 13-point lead and looked well on their way to heading home with the series even.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy, with Toronto mounting big runs in the third and fourth quarters.
That’s when the Sixers needed Jimmy Butler to deliver and he did in a 94-89 win at Scotiabank Arena during Game 2 of the second-round, best-of-seven series (see observations).
The Raptors chipped away at the lead but could never get over the hump thanks in large part to Butler. It seemed like every time Toronto would make a run, Butler would come down the other end make a huge bucket.
“To tell you the truth, I just happened to make a couple a shots,” Butler said. “Everybody told me to come out aggressive, take the shots that are there.”
And it’s a damn good thing for the Sixers he did.
Butler finished 9 of 22 and scored 12 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. He also added 11 rebounds and four assists. Of the eight other players in franchise to score at least 30 and put up 11 rebounds and four assists in a playoff game, Joel Embiid is the only one that's not a Hall of Famer.
The aggressiveness in general was a positive for Butler, but his willingness to take threes also stood out. He went 4 of 10 from distance. It was the first time in Butler’s eight NBA seasons that he reached double digits in attempts from three.
The list of Sixers to score 30 points, pull down 11 boards and hit four treys in a playoff game: Jimmy Butler.
“This was James Butler. That was the adult in the gym,” Brett Brown said. “I get as excited at the volume of threes that he sought as much as anything. He was just a tremendous sort of rock. He willed us to a lot of different situations.
“He was a great teammate on the bench. Jonah [Bolden’s] three-point shot that he made in the corner, on the way to the court coming out of a timeout, he told him, ‘Young fella, if you’re open, you have to shoot it.’ Ironically, he was open 40 seconds later and he made it. He was a stud. He really was an adult in the gym. “
For the record, Butler’s legal name is actually “Jimmy.”
“My name isn’t James," Butler said. "It’s literally Jimmy.”
Butler struggled a bit in Game 1. Kawhi Leonard scorched the Sixers and Butler was victimized the most. Leonard went 5 of 6 against him while Butler finished just 4 of 12 overall. In Butler’s defense, nobody got it going for the Sixers.
Perhaps that’s why his coaches and teammates were urging him to go into Jimmy Buckets mode before Game 2.
“They put a lot of confidence in me before the game,” Butler said. “I put in a lot of work last night as well as this morning, but all in all, it was a team effort.
“I always go back to defense. We get stops, we’re taking off into the open floor. Guys are making plays like Jo and Ben [Simmons]. Whenever we’re playing like that, guarding like that, we’re such a good team. We definitely have to continue to do it and know that any given night, it’s going to be somebody’s night. We have the group of guys that anybody can get hot. Anybody can put the ball in the basket. We feed the hot hand.”
Butler deflected praise for the most part, lauding his teammates’ defense and how they set him up to succeed.
With Game 3 looming at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday, Toronto will no doubt make adjustments. Butler was huge Monday night, but the Raptors will counter that Thursday.
Butler isn’t worried because of what he’s learned about his team.
“That it can be anybody’s night,” Butler said. “My team had a lot of faith in me in me tonight. I told them I had to come out and redeem myself, and they did a great job.”
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