Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard dem olishes 76ers, “I knew I had some time to try”
After an unforgettable shot by Kawhi Leonard in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, the Toronto Raptors survived a thriller Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 92-90 on Monday (Manila time). With 4.2 seconds remaining on the clock and a tied score, Leonard’s perimeter shot, which almost didn’t fall towards the inside of the ring, seemed like a miracle to all spectators in the Scotiabank Arena, leaving them in awe and giving the Raptors their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Seconds before that miraculous shot, Leonard almost gave the 76ers their win with his failed three-pointer. “It ended up coming short. I knew I had to put it up even higher than that.” The Raptors forward recalled.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse immediately called up a timeout to draw out a play for the remaining seconds. “I ended up just catching and shooting the ball, it was probably about three seconds,” Leonard explained. Sitting on the bench listening to Nurse, he noticed the clock. “There were four seconds left and, remembering that moment, I knew I had some time to try and get some space rather than just catch and shoot the ball.”
That victory at their own homecourt was the first ever Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history.
Raptors guard Danny Green described the thrilling game to Raptors’ assistant coach Jeremy Castleberry: “Like a goddamned movie.”
“Sometimes it takes a bit of luck,” Raptors center Marc Gasol mused, to which coach Nurse added, “It is good that the balancing scales were there tonight.”
The impressive 41-point performance by Leonard became the saving grace of the Raptors. As he dropped that game-winning shot, Leonard was seen screaming his lungs out, an unusual act for someone who usually keeps his cool well.
“I’m a guy that acts like that I’ve been there before, so probably the last time you’ve seen me scream is when we won (during his time in San Antonio),” Leonard said. “Whenever it’s a moment that I haven’t really experienced, I probably try to give and show some emotion and let it just come out.”
The Raptors will now take on the Bucks on Thursday (Manila time) for the eagerly anticipated Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA. (Janiel Abby Toralba)