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Precious Achiuwa of the Toronto Raptors shoots a lay up past James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers in the third quarter of Game Five of the Eastern Conference First Round at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on April 25.Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Precious Achiuwa has provided some eye-opening moments this postseason.

The Toronto Raptors’ power forward is 22 years old and playing in just his second NBA season. But Achiuwa has looked comfortable dribbling past seven-foot 76ers superstar Joel Embiid to score or pump-faking him under the basket, providing a spark for the Raps off the bench. As the Raptors fight back in a series they once trailed 3-0, Achiuwa is growing up in real time.

He was known for his defensive intensity before, but in recent games he’s really showing up offensively, too.

Achiuwa posted 17 points on 64-per-cent shooting (7 of 11) during Monday’s Game 5 win in Philadelphia, helping Toronto stave off elimination for a second straight game. He also added seven rebounds and three blocked shots. Achiuwa had more points himself off the bench in that game than Philly’s entire bench combined (11 points). He’d been hot in Game 3 also, contributing 20 points.

The instances in which he beat Embiid toe-to-toe drew the most attention – looking Philly’s Most Valuable Player finalist in the eye and then blazing past him to the right, beating him with low post moves, shooting over him or beating everyone to a rebound. Achiuwa has scored in a variety of ways in this series from spin moves to alley-oops or three-point shots.

Achiuwa flashed some creativity and decisiveness when he retrieved a ball from near the sideline on a broken play in the fourth quarter of Game 4, weaved his way through Embiid and Danny Green and took it right to the rim.

“Precious has so many moves,” Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said to reporters earlier in the series. “You never know what he’s going to do out there. I keep saying we got to stick to a few, but he keeps busting out new ones.”

His importance has been elevated in this series as the Raptors have experienced depth issues owing to injuries to Fred VanVleet, Scottie Barnes and Thaddeus Young, and Gary Trent Jr.’s illness.

He came to the Raptors in the off-season from the Miami Heat as part of the Kyle Lowry trade.

The 6-foot-8, 225-pound player hails from Port Harcourt, Nigeria, and had attended a Giants of Africa camp in his home country at age 12 – the initiative for the betterment of African youth, founded by Raptors president Masai Ujiri.

Later Achiuwa moved to the United States before high school and honed his skills at a few top prep basketball programs. Then he played one college season at the University of Memphis, where his head coach was former NBA star Penny Hardaway. Achiuwa earned both Freshman and Player of the Year honours in the American Athletic Conference.

The Heat picked him 20th over all in the 2020 NBA draft. Last year, he averaged five points and 3.4 rebounds for the Heat in the 61 regular-season games and got into three playoff games, averaging just four minutes. For Toronto, he has played nearly 29 minutes a game off the bench in this postseason.

He has provided some key defence on Embiid and Harden, too. At one point during the season Achiuwa asked Nurse for big defensive opportunities.

“I kind of just told him, I said, ‘If you find someone and they’re hot, like, I want to guard them,’” Achiuwa said before the series. “I take a lot of pride in defence and I trust my defensive ability of being able to stay with a lot of people. … I think I could hang with the best.”

He has made his share of young mistakes, too – not as many lately as he was making earlier in the season. He has turned the ball over, missed assignments and free throws. He was part of a fluke play at the end of the first quarter on Monday. Achiuwa and Barnes both jumped up under the 76ers basket for a rebound, and they accidently tipped the ball in through the hoop – gifting Philly two points.

The youngster seems to be learning with each playoff outing.

“I’m just out there figuring out how they play, where my shots are gonna come from,” Achiuwa said. “I feel like the last few games I’ve been able to do a good job with that. And I’m just taking advantage of it.

The Raptors have become the 14th NBA team to force a Game 6 after slipping into a 3-0 deficit in a seven-game playoff series. Of those 14, only three have stretched it to a Game 7. None have ever gone on to win the series.

“The ball goes up on Thursday,” Nurse said. “And everybody’s gotta fight like heck.”