PHILADELPHIA -- Sixers superstar Joel Embiid felt so sick Sunday morning that he texted his coach to tell him he might not play. After struggling down the stretch in a 101-96 loss to the Toronto Raptors that evened the Eastern Conference semifinals 2-2, his play made him feel even worse.
"I mean, at the end of the day, it's on me," Embiid said after finishing with 11 points on 2-for-7 shooting, eight rebounds and seven assists. "I got to be more aggressive. Today wasn't the same as [Game 3]. Staying aggressive, especially offensively, I've got to help my teammates better. But still on me."
Embiid scored 33 points on 18 shots in Game 3 to push Philadelphia ahead in the series. On Sunday, he scored 22 fewer points, and the Sixers totaled 20 fewer points as a team.
"I got a text from him at 6:20 a.m. this morning telling me he didn't really sleep all night, he really never felt this poorly and, 'I wasn't sure, Coach, if I'm going to play.' That's how my day started," Sixers coach Brett Brown said.
The All-Star center told reporters that after a sleepless night, he received IV fluids at 6 a.m. -- about nine-and-a-half hours prior to tipoff -- marking the second time this series that he needed an IV to play. Prior to Game 2, he received fluids to deal with a bout of gastroenteritis.
"I'm just not myself," he said.
The Sixers looked far different than the team that seized control of the series on Friday. After taking an 84-81 lead on a banked 3-pointer by Jimmy Butler with 9:18 remaining in the fourth quarter, Philly went more than seven minutes without a field goal before JJ Redick hit a 3-pointer with 2:07 left.
During the drought, the Sixers went 0-for-9 from the floor (0-for-6 from 3-point range) and 3-for-6 from the foul line with three turnovers.
Brett Brown: Embiid texted me unsure if he was going to play
Brett Brown said Joel Embiid texted him at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning saying he didn't sleep well and was unsure if he'd play in Game 4.
Embiid was a main culprit as the game slipped away, going 0-for-2 from the floor and 3-for-6 from the line with two turnovers and four fouls in the fourth quarter.
Toronto went big, playing Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka together at times, and both players responded with their best games of the series for Toronto. Gasol had 16 points and five boards; Ibaka contributed 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
When asked about the Raptors' lineup adjustments on Embiid, Sixers guard Ben Simmons was matter-of-fact.
"He's got to be ready and expecting that," Simmons said. "Obviously, he's a little sick today. That plays into it, too."
The Sixers were outscored 38-34 in the paint by the Raptors. Philadelphia's 17-for-37 (46 percent) conversion rate on shots in the paint was its worst showing this postseason and fifth-worst all season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.
The series moves to Toronto for Game 5 on Tuesday -- and potentially Game 7 on Sunday -- as it becomes a best-of-three affair, with both teams having proven they can win on the opponent's home floor.
"Still have an amazing opportunity to go for the Eastern Conference championship and then get to the [NBA] Finals, so we're looking forward to it," Simmons said.
The Sixers are also anticipating a return to form from Embiid.
"We just want him to be aggressive," Butler said. "I mean, hell, if you are going to go 2-for-7, go 2-for-20. I'm with it. ... We're rocking with Jo. That's what we need out of him, to always be aggressive. Moving forward, we expect the same thing. Go show why you're so dominant, night in and night out, on both ends of the floor. He's a little bit sick, banged up, so we got a day to get him right [before Game 5]."