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Leonard hits buzzer beater to send Raptors to Eastern Conference Finals

The Canadian Press | posted Monday, May 13th, 2019

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 percent 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.

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