Kawhi Leonard’s last-second shot gives Raptors series victory
TORONTO — Kawhi Leonard bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced the 76ers out of the playoffs.
Leonard’s shot over Joel Embiid at the buzzer bounced off the rim four times before falling to give the Raptors a 92-90 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday in Game 7 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series. It was the first winning buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history.
“It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.”
After Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler tied the score with a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left, Toronto used its final timeout to draw up a play for Leonard, who dribbled toward the right corner and launched the high-arcing shot.
The ball bounced to the top of the backboard, hit the near side of the rim again, then the other side twice before going through the net, setting off a wild celebration as the Raptors advanced to the conference finals for the second time in four seasons. They will open the conference finals Wednesday in Milwaukee.
“It’s tough,” Butler said. “Nobody likes to lose, not that way.”
Leonard scored 41 points on 16-for-39 shooting.
“He was awesome at both ends,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s his uniqueness. Not only can he get you 30 and anywhere upwards from that, but there are moments when he can just decide you’re not scoring, either.”
The Raptors ran a similar play for Leonard during the first round against Orlando. That time, he caught the ball and shot without dribbling.
“Remembering that moment, I knew I had some time to try to get some space, rather than just catch and shoot the ball,” Leonard said. “I ended up finding a spot that I like, that I work on. I just knew I had to shoot it high.”
Serge Ibaka added 17 points, and Pascal Siakam had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto.
Embiid, in tears as he left the court, led the 76ers with 21 points and 11 rebounds. JJ Redick had 17 points, Butler added 16, and Tobias Harris had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“I give Toronto credit for a tenacious, switching defense,” Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown said. “We had a hard time turning the corner once they did switch.”
Ian Harrison is an Associated Press writer.