After a brief slip-up against the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week, the Toronto Raptors returned to their winning ways with an impressive victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday evening, 93-88. They have now won six straight road games and six of their past seven overall to improve to 40-31 on the season. All of a sudden they are just one game out of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.
Pascal Siakam went for 26 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, and Precious Achiuwa added 21 points and nine rebounds, but it was the Raptors' defense that led the way. They held the Sixers to 41.1 percent shooting as a team, and limited Joel Embiid and James Harden to a combined 38 points and 11 of 32 from the field.
Perhaps the biggest defensive play of the night, however, belonged to Chris Boucher's face. In one of the strangest endings you're ever likely to see, Boucher essentially won the game for the Raptors by taking an elbow straight to the jaw from Harden on a last-second drive.
With less than 10 seconds to play, Tyrese Maxey drove inside for a quick two to cut the Sixers' deficit to two points. They quickly fouled on the ensuing inbounds, sending Scottie Barnes to the line. The rookie missed both free throws, which gave the Sixers the ball back with 7.1 seconds to play, still trailing by just two. Unsurprisingly, they put the ball in Harden's hands and let him go to work.
Harden put his head down, got past Barnes and appeared to have a path to the rim before Boucher arrived in help defense. The lanky Raptors forward jumped straight up with perfect technique, and Harden rammed his elbow right into his face. From the overhead angle you can see clearly how Harden sticks his elbow out to create some space.
The referees blew the whistle and correctly called an offensive foul on Harden. Instead of two free throws to potentially tie the score, the ball was going back to the Raptors. And what's more, after a review the play was upgraded to a flagrant-one foul on Harden. Boucher made one of his two flagrant free throws, then Siakam knocked down two clutch foul shots of his own and that was the ball game.
Boucher, who credited Kyle Lowry for teaching him about defensive positioning and taking charges, said his neck was still sore from the incident. It was all worth it to help the team, however.
"We got the win so I feel a lot better about that," Boucher said.