The Toronto Raptors defeated the Philadelphia Sixers on a buzzer beater from Kawhi Leonard to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 92-90 and clinch the series.
The second-seeded Raptors now face the Greek Freak and the #1 Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best record in the NBA this season with 60 wins.
Leonard finished the game with 41 points, despite a rough night. Leonard shot 16-for-39, including 2-for-9 from three-point range. The Raptors leading scorer missed 23 shots before he took the decisive shot as time expired. He got a favorable bounce on the rim and made the biggest basket in the history of Toronto Raptors basketball.
“That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot,” said Leonard. “It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.”
KAWHI CALLED SERIES! pic.twitter.com/V4AIuMULNO
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 13, 2019
Aside from Kevin Durant, Leonard is second in scoring in the postseason with 31.8 points in 12 games. His season average this year was 26.6 points per game.
To put Leonard’s 41 point effort in perspective, the rest of the Raptors scored 51 points combined.
“He was awesome at both ends,” said Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. “That’s his uniqueness. Not only can he get you 30 and anywhere upwards from that, but there’s moments when he can just decide you’re not scoring, either.”
Then again, Nick Nurse shortened his rotation to just seven players. Only two players saw time off the bench: Serge Ibaka and Fred VanVleet. Ibaka chipped in 17 points for the second-most on the team.
Kyle Lowry’s shooting woes continued in Game 7. However, the Raptors point guard played great all-around basketball with 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals. He got a couple of huge rebounds in crunch time despite being the shortest player on the court. Lowry scored 10 points om 4-for-13 shooting, including an unimpressive 1-for-7 from downtown.
Marc Gasol played a team-high 45 minutes and shadowed Joel Embiid most of the game. That’s one of the main reasons the Raptors acquired Gasol late in the season: to keep big guys in check (e.g. Embiid and the Greek Freak).
Pascal Siakam finished Game 7 with another double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
Tough Bounce for Philly
No one took the loss harder than Joel Embiid. The Sixers center played the entire postseason with a multitude of injuries including a sore knee, a bad stomach, and the flu. Embiid was never fully 100% this series, but he kept playing through his maladies. Embiid scored 21 points and hauled down 11 rebounds in a losing effort. An inconsolable Embiid left the floor in tears.
“It’s tough,” Jimmy Butler said. “Nobody likes to lose, not that way.
The Sixers had one of the most dangerous starting five players in the entire NBA even though they didn’t really have a lot of experience together as a unit. The rest of the Sixers’ starters all scored in double digits in Game 7, but Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick were held to 10-for-25 from the floor. Reddick hit four treys to finish with 17 points. Butler scored just 16 points. Both Butler and Reddick will be free agents in the offseason.
Tobias Harris, acquired in a blockbuster trade with the LA Clippers, posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He will also a free agent.
Which players with the Sixers keep? And who will they add to the team to help Embiid? Those are questions that will be haunting Philly fans all summer.
On Deck: Bucks/Raptors
The top two seeds in the East will meet in the Eastern Finals. The Bucks won 60 games for the best record in the NBA with a 60-22 clip. The Raptors were second-best with 58 wins. Out in the West, the Golden State Warriors boasted the best record in their conference with 57 wins.
The Bucks won the season series 2-1 over the Raptors with the Greek Freak coming out on top of Kawhi Leonard. Those two superstars fighting for the right to play in the NBA Finals will be fun to watch.
Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors are still wondering if an injured Kevin Durant will be ready to play in the Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trailblazers.
According to the South Point Casino and Sports Book in Las Vegas, the Golden State Warriors are no longer the favorites to win the NBA title (for a third year in a row) at -125. The Milwaukee Bucks are the new favorites to win the title at -175. The Toronto Raptors are 7/1 odds to win the championship. The Portland Blazers are the long shot on the board at 15/1 odds to win the NBA title.