Kawhi Leonard hit a shot from the corner right at the final buzzer to send the Toronto Raptors to the Eastern Conference finals for just the second time in franchise history.
The Raptors got the ball to their star player in the dying seconds and he delivered in thrilling fashion, sending a shot over the outstretched hands of Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid to give Toronto a dramatic 92-90 Game 7 win, May 12th, at Scotiabank Arena.
The Raptors will now face the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks in a best-of-seven series with hopes of advancing to the franchise’s first NBA championship final.
Leonard led the way with a game-high 41 points, including the decisive bucket that bounced three times off the rim before finally falling into the net.
“It was great,” Leonard told NBA.com. “That’s something I’ve never experienced before, Game 7, game-winning shot. It was a blessing to just be able to get to that point and make that shot, and feel that moment. It’s something that I can look back on my career.”
Nick Nurse had seen Leonard try the same shot on similar plays during the season, but unlike other times, this time it paid off. The Raptors head coach believed his team deserved a break and it came in thrilling fashion.
“Obviously it’s a nice lucky bounce, but I thought we were very unlucky for a lot of that game so it came back to us a little bit and balanced out,” Nurse said.
Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds, while Pascal Siakam finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who led 67-64 heading into the final quarter.
Embiid led the way for the Sixers with 21 points, while teammate JJ Reddick poured in 17.
Leonard, normally stoic, couldn’t help but joyfully celebrate with his teammates after the buzzer beater.
“I knew it was Game 7 and I didn’t want to leave no shots in my mind,” he said. “I just wanted to go out and leave it all on the floor.”
Game 1 of the Eastern final goes Wednesday in Milwaukee. Game time is 8:30 p.m.