Raptors bounce into Finals thanks to Kawhi heroics

The normally stoic Kawhi Leonard celebrating his winning basket that helped Toronto beat Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. PHOTO: REUTERS
The normally stoic Kawhi Leonard celebrating his winning basket that helped Toronto beat Philadelphia 92-90 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals. PHOTO: REUTERS

TORONTO • The first Game 7 buzzer-beating shot in National Basketball Association history was "like a movie moment".

The Toronto Raptors and their fans ran the gamut of emotions as Kawhi Leonard's basket bounced up and down the rim four times.

And then it dropped in.

Cue bedlam.

Leonard let out a scream as fans danced in the stands at the Scotiabank Arena, while his teammates swarmed him along the baseline after his fall-away shot.

The two-pointer, forming part of his game-high 41 points, was all that separated the Raptors from their opponents, the Philadelphia 76ers, in the 92-90 win on Sunday in the deciding game of their Eastern Conference semi-final series.

All-Star forward Jimmy Butler poured in 16 points, while fellow All-Star centre Joel Embiid paced the Sixers with 21.

An elated Leonard admitted afterwards that "tonight was one of those nights".

The All-Star forward said: "I'm pretty mucha guy that acts like I've been there before. So probably the last time you've seen me scream was when we won (the NBA title with the San Antonio Spurs in 2014).

"Whenever it's a moment that I haven't really experienced, I'll try to show some emotion and let it come out. It was a great feeling."

The second-seeded Raptors will travel to face top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Game 1 tomorrow.

In the West, the visiting Portland Trail Blazers rallied on the back of C.J. McCollum's game-high 37 points to stun the Denver Nuggets 100-96 in the deciding game to book a Conference Finals date with two-time defending champions Golden State Warriors.

Despite a team-leading 29 points from Nuggets All-Star centre Nikola Jokic, Portland sealed their first trip to the Finals since 2000.

The third seeds will open their series in Oakland, California, today.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2019, with the headline 'Raptors bounce into Finals thanks to Kawhi heroics'. Print Edition | Subscribe