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Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes looks for the shot as Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto, on April 7.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

No team in the NBA has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven playoff series.

“Well, somebody’s got to do it,” Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said. “And if it gets to 3-1, it’s not 3-0 any more. And 3-1 has been done.”

The Toronto Raptors are facing that unenviable situation against the Philadelphia 76ers, after they let a winnable Game 3 slip through their fingers.

Facing elimination on Saturday afternoon at home, it’s best to focus on the first few movements up the mountain, rather than stare way up to the top of the peak and think about all the teams who failed to reach that summit. That appears to be the coach’s attitude.

Indeed, 11 NBA teams in history have overcome a 3-1 start to win a series. But whether the Raptors can win even one to avoid a sweep seems questionable – with the status of Scottie Barnes in doubt, Toronto’s two biggest stars playing mediocre and Philly’s Joel Embiid looking almost unstoppable. However, late Friday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that there is a fear Embiid may have a torn ligament in his right thumb, but that the five-time all-star has vowed to keep playing through it.

Nurse didn’t sound optimistic about Barnes returning for Game 4. Then again, why would he want the 76ers to know before game time if he was? Barnes missed Games 2 and 3 after spraining his ankle in Game 1, the consequence of Embiid landing on his foot.

“I’m not gonna rule out the possibility that he may play,” Nurse said on Friday. “But he’s still doubtful.”

The NBA rookie-of-the-year finalist participated in “little bits” of Friday’s practice. Barnes averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists a game in the regular season. He had 15 points, 10 boards and eight assists in the 32 minutes he played in Game 1 before he got hurt. Barnes would help the Raptors defensively, and alleviate some of the ball-handling pressure on Fred VanVleet.

“Letting Scottie be out there and running gives us a few different wrinkles. It gives us a chance to run stuff for Freddy off the ball a little bit more,” Nurse said. “Scottie’s overall versatility would help us, I think it would help us at the defensive end, especially.”

The Raptors took a beating in the first two games in Philadelphia. But in Game 3 in Toronto, with the home fans loudly jeering Embiid, the game looked well in hand. The Raptors led most of the night – by as much as 17 points – but lost by three in overtime.

Nurse didn’t blame himself – as a head coach sometimes does publicly at a crucial time. Many pundits wondered if he made the best defensive decisions on Philly’s last play with 0.9 seconds left in OT, with the game tied, when Embiid hit a game-winning three-pointer. At the last instant, Nurse moved VanVleet from defending Philly’s in-bound passer, left him on the floor but sent him instead to defend in the paint.

So 76ers in-bounder Danny Green, unguarded, made an easy clean pass to the 7-foot Embiid – the biggest guy on the floor and the most obvious to receive the ball. When he shot, the 6-foot-1 VanVleet was one of two players in position to run at the most-valuable-player candidate to try and thwart his shot.

“I think we were probably more concerned that [Embiid] was just going to pound his way right in front of the rim and clear everybody out and they’re gonna throw it up in the air down there low,” Nurse said. “Since, you know, they didn’t need a three.”

Nurse said the problem there was the Raptors missing a switch defensively on Philly’s screen.

The video shows Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa failing to switch on a screen by Philly’s Tobias Harris, which ultimately freed Embiid to match an easy catch and hit a three-pointer from 27 feet out. Had Trent Jr. made that switch onto Embiid, the big 76er likely would not have had as clean a shot. Trent Jr. was left floating in the middle on no one in particular, and Achiuwa clambered off the screen and sprawled after Embiid, but not in time to deter his shot.

“It wasn’t that complicated, if we’d just made one switch we’d have been fine,” Nurse said. “But listen … We had about seven other chances to put that game away in the last minute [and] 30 seconds.”

Nurse focused instead on Toronto’s missed opportunities to win it – the three missed free throws and the open looks: “I mean, we had to make one of those plays and that game is probably put away.”

“I think that they were delivering execution-wise and it just wasn’t our turn to have the ball bounce our way,” Nurse said. “I mean, we executed almost everything the way we wanted to at the offensive end. You got to make a free throw, or you got to make an open shot. That’s it.”

If the Raptors are to avoid elimination against the star-studded 76ers, they’ll need more from VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. Siakam didn’t score a single point in the second half or overtime on Wednesday, while VanVleet was 2-for-9 in that stretch. Together they contributed 24 points on 9-of-29 shooting in Game 3 – far off the 33 points Embiid scored that game himself.

“I didn’t realize I took five shots the whole second half,” Siakam said after analyzing Game 3. “The journey and the season that we had, all the ups and downs that we have as a team and individually, it’s a great opportunity for us to look ourselves in the mirror, just go out there, give everything.”