Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard had 41 points as the Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 92-90 in NBA playoff basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, May 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard had 41 points as the Raptors beat the Philadelphia 76ers 92-90 in NBA playoff basketball action in Toronto on Sunday, May 12, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS

Leonard’s buzzer-beater lifts Raptors to Game 7 win over 76ers

Toronto advances to NBA’s Eastern Conference final after beating Philadelphia 92-90

TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard’s 15-foot jump shot at the buzzer lifted the Toronto Raptors to a thrilling 92-90 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers — and into the Eastern Conference Finals for just the second time in franchise history.

Leonard had 15 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, and corralled the ball with four seconds left before the launching the winning basket.

The Raptors face the Bucks, who dispatched Boston in five games, in the Eastern Conference final, beginning Wednesday in Milwaukee.

Serge Ibaka had 17 points and eight rebounds, while Pascal Siakam finished with 11 points and 11 boards, and Kyle Lowry had 10 points despite playing most of the night with a taped left thumb he sprained early in the second quarter. Marc Gasol grabbed 11 rebounds to go with seven points.

The see-saw series had some wild momentum shifts, with a couple of blowouts on both sides. The Raptors set a franchise record for margin of victory in the post-season with their 125-89 Game 5 rout, but rather than comfortably close the series in six games in Philly, they dropped a 112-101 decision in Thursday’s Game 6 at Wells Fargo Center.

Sunday’s game certainly wasn’t pretty, particularly by post-season standards.

The Raptors shot 21 per cent in the first quarter, and the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the league since the Gasol trade in February, might as well have been masquerading as the worst. They missed their first eight three-point attempts before Ibaka finally connected a minute into the second.

The lead changed hands six times in the first half, but neither team led by double digits. When Gasol scored on a floater at 9:28 in the third quarter, Toronto took its biggest lead of the game — nine points. The Sixers responded with a 16-0 run to go up by seven, but the Raptors replied and Ibaka’s layup with 7.7 seconds left in the third gave Toronto a 67-64 lead with one quarter left.

A Scotiabank Arena crowd, that included former Raptors point guard Jose Calderon, was on its feet for most of the final nailbiting 12 minutes that saw Leonard score five straight points to put Toronto up by five with 4:48 to play.

Toronto’s defence locked down in the final couple of minutes. Leonard broke a tie with a long two-pointer, then Lowry stole the ball off Tobias Harris and Siakam finished with a layup that had the ear-splitting crowd roaring their approval and put Toronto up by four heading into the final minute.

A free throw by Butler and two from Embiid with 12.1 seconds made it a one-point game. Leonard was fouled and missed one of his free throws and then Butler sprinted downcourt for the tying layup with 4.2 seconds to play.

On the final thrilling play, Leonard took the ball from Lowry and shot from just in front of the Raptors bench. He connected. The arena exploded.

The Jumbotron panned to the hundreds of bundled-up, celebrating fans watching the game outside the arena in Maple Leaf Square on a chilly 6 C night.

A loss would’ve been deemed a big disappointment for a squad that team president Masai Ujiri rebuilt specifically with a big but short-term goal in mind — a berth in the NBA Finals — acquiring Leonard and Danny Green for much-loved DeMar DeRozan last summer, and then acquiring Gasol for Jonas Valanciunas at the trade deadline.

Among the questions that hinge on these playoffs is the future of Leonard.

Both coaches talked pre-game about the magnitude of a Game 7.

“I think you would tend to think that in a long coaching career this is really, really, really big, biggest moment ever, but I think back to when I was getting ready to coach the Manchester Giants versus the Birmingham Bullets back in 2000, it meant a lot to me in the moment,” Toronto’s Nick Nurse said. “I can’t imagine it meaning any more. I’ve had a lot of those times in my career and it feels similar.”

RELATED: Raptors off to 2nd round after 115-96 win over Magic

Sixers coach Brett Brown said his staff of 14 had spent the previous night dining at swish Yorkville restaurant Sotto Sotto.

“I will be on a mission personally to help our players get through this,” Brown said. “To have a demeanour of solid. That’s my role in a game like today. To help our guys, to tell them the truth when things aren’t going the way that we want, and to steady the ship. Keep the boys in the boat.”

The Raptors shot just 5-for-24 in the first quarter, including 0-for-8 from behind the arc, yet still managed to build a seven-point lead when Green poked the ball away from Embiid and finish with a dunk eight minutes into the game. Leonard led the way with eight points in the quarter, and Toronto took an 18-13 lead into the second.

A three-pointer by Harris capped a 14-2 Philly run in the second that gave the visitors a four-point lead. But the Raptors fired back with an 11-3 run punctuated by a Lowry three-point play that saw Toronto head into the locker-room at halftime up 44-40.

The Raptors had played in five previous Game 7s, most recently in 2016 when Lowry scored 35 points to help Toronto beat Miami to move on to the conference finals.

The Raptors lost 88-87 to Philadelphia in the 2001 conference semifinals when a Vince Carter jump shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim. The Sixers went on to play Milwaukee in the conference final.

THE CANADIAN PRESS

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

NBA

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Gus doing a little hard time before reuniting with his owners. Photo: Trail RCMP
Trail RCMP report cheery conclusions to missing cases

Media brief from the Trail and Greater District RCMP

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca.
Drivesmart BC: Rules around bicycle lanes

The lane is often painted green to distinguish it from lanes intended for motor vehicles.

“It’s never too early to start your own Advance Care Plan, but sometimes it can be too late,” says the BC Hospice Palliative Care Association. Photo: Joanna Nix-Walkup on Unsplash
Start the conversation on April 16, National Advance Care Planning Day

Hospice advises to communicate your wishes for peace of mind

FILE — In this March 31, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose COVID-19 vaccine at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center, in Uniondale, N.Y. The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said it was investigating clots in six women in the days after vaccination, in combination with reduced platelet counts. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)
72 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases in the region to 9,666 since the pandemic began

A screenshot from a Nuu-chah-nulth healing song and performance created in collaboration between Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso. (Screenshot from YouTube)
WATCH: Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song

Hjalmer Wenstob and Timmy Masso share dance and inspiration.

Health Canada headquarters in Ottawa. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)
Health Canada releases guidelines for reducing COVID-19 transmission at home

Improve indoor air quality by opening up your windows and doors, among the encouraged ventilation measures

Flow Academy is not accepting membership applications from anybody who has received a dose of the vaccine, according to a password-protected membership application form. (Submitted image)
B.C. martial arts gym refusing patrons who have been vaccinated, wear masks

Interior Health has already issued a ticket to Flow Academy for non-compliance with public health orders

MP Todd Doherty took to Facebook after his family recently received threats. (Todd Doherty, MP Facebook photo)
‘I don’t run and I don’t hide’: Cariboo MP says RCMP probing threats made against family

Todd Doherty has also notified House of Commons Protective Services

Two men walk past a sign on Main Street in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Calls for government transparency in COVID data continue as B.C.’s 3rd wave wears on

Social media, where both information and misinformation can spread like wildfire, has not helped

The music video for “Green and Blue” featured a Willington Care Centre in Burnaby as well as some of the volunteers and employees. (Screenshot/Todd Richard)
‘Green and Blue’: B.C. country musician releases tribute song for front-line workers

Richard’s new single has been viewed more than 3,000 times on his YouTube channel

An unidentified B.C. man said, in a human rights complaint, that he was refused a contract job after refusing to wear a mask when asked to by an on-site manager. (Unsplash)
Religious B.C. man lodges human rights complaint after fired for refusing to wear a mask

Worker’s claim that ‘to cover up our face infringes on our God-given ability to breathe’ dismissed by B.C. Human Rights Tribunal

This 2013 Dodge Ram 1500 was stolen from Black Creek Motors at approximately 2 a.m. Sunday, April 11. Photos via blackcreekmotors.com
VIDEO: B.C. car dealer posts clip of thieves towing a truck right off his lot

Video shows one white truck towing another off Vancouver Island lot

Most Read