Luck of the bounce: Kawhi sends Raptors to ECF

The Toronto Raptors gambled the entire future of their franchise on one year of Kawhi Leonard. On Sunday, that bet paid off.

Fueled by 41 points and a game-winner from their two-way superstar, the Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a thrilling 92-90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

What started as a defensive-focused rock fight progressed into a thriller in the fourth quarter, where the Sixers erased a five-point lead with less than five minutes left and a four-point lead with less than one minutes left. What followed will go down in Raptors lore.

Totally how Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors drew it up

Jimmy Butler tied the game at 90 with four seconds left in regulation, giving the Raptors one chance to win it or face overtime. Naturally, the ball ended up in Leonard’s hands.

A running jump shot hit the rim, bounced 3 feet in the air, then bounced again and again before it finally went through, blowing the roof off the Scotiabank Arena.

Four bounces, two points, one series decided.

It looked even more ridiculous from a half-court angle.

The Raptors immediately mobbed the hero of the night once the ball fell through, as the dejected Sixers walked to their locker room, their biggest star in tears.

That improbable shot capped off a trigger-happy shooting night for the Raptors star. All things considered, needing 39 field goal attempts — as Leonard did on Sunday — to reach 41 points is pretty inefficient. It’s doubtful that anyone in Toronto is going to care.

Kawhi Leonard let it all out in Game 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Kawhi Leonard let it all out in Game 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Kawhi Leonard let it all out in Game 7. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Kawhi’s shot avenges Vince Carter

Leonard’s shot quickly drew comparisons from Raptors fans with long memories to another Raptors-Sixers Game 7 from 18 years ago.

Down by one with two seconds left in the final game of the Raptors’ second round series against Allen Iverson’s Sixers, Vince Carter took the ball and shot it from nearly the same spot as Leonard did. It didn’t go as well it did on Sunday.

Throughout their existence, the Raptors have had stars, but none that have taken them to the promised land.

The DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry teams of the recent past were good, but never got past LeBron James. Chris Bosh never got past the first round. That shot from Carter represented the farthest the team would ever get in the playoffs with him.

Leonard’s shot not only won a series for the Raptors, it should give fans hope that this time, it might all be different.

And now, a Sixers-Raptors recap from Magic Johnson

A thrilling night of basketball wouldn’t be complete without Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson there to tell us what just happened.

All true words from a man who literally quit his job as Lakers president so he could tweet without limits.

Bucks await Raptors in Eastern Conference finals

The Raptors are now headed to their first conference finals since 2016, but awaiting them will not be their constant tormentor in James.

Rather, it will be the closest thing the East has left to James in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who stomped the Boston Celtics in five games. Game 1 tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday night.

Four more wins, and the Raptors will have gone further in a season than ever before. And with every series victory, the team likely gets a better chance to hold onto Leonard, their hero of the moment, in free agency next year.

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