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But he also opened the door for the Philadelphia 76ers and gave them a chance to steal the series. He stood just a moment earlier on the free throw line, his team led with two and the Sixers for time reasons. Splash both, and the Raptors would have possessed a three-point lead. Leonard hit the first, but the second shot, a line, rang from the front of the rim. Sixers striker Tobias Harris grabbed it. He threw the ball in front of Jimmy Butler, who hovered him over the outstretched arms of Raptors striker Serge Ibaka and the glass to tie the game.
Leonard's shoulders sank, his head sank. Nick Nurse, Raptor's head coach, called for a break to design a piece. It challenged Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry to drive from half place to the corner, and Leonard to move from a Pascal Siakam screen to the edge. Sitting on the bench, Leonard switched on his hard drive.
At first he thought of a three-pointer he had recently missed. "It was too short, I knew that I had to start even higher," he said later.
Then he went further, back to Toronto's playoff matchup in the first round against Orlando Magic. Sister had once called a similar piece.
"In the end I just caught and shot the ball, it was probably three seconds," Leonard later said. As he sat on the bench and listened to Sister, he noticed the clock. "There were four seconds remaining, and when I remembered that moment, I knew I had some time to make room instead of just catching and shooting the ball."
Basketball has one rule that most players learn early on: you can generally dribble on your watch every second.
Leonard received the Inbounds pass from Raptors Center Marc Gasol and took four hard dribbles to the right. The Sixers player sprinted away from a Sixers trap and Ben Simmons, who defended him, headed for 7 "0" Joel Embiid and deep into the right corner, throwing the ball over Embiid's arms and his 39th shot into the air of the game – this one was a rainbow unlike its typical flash of light – and fell to the ground as he listened to the last horn buzz and watched the ball bounce once and then again and then off the rim.
And then one last time, before he rolls through the net and raises the Raptors to a 92-90 home win at Game 7, the first buzzer-beater in NBA history.
"Like a goddamn movie," Raptors says Watchman Danny Green described the game to Raptors assistant coach Jeremy Castleberry in a dizzying post-game Raptors locker room.
"Sometimes it takes a bit of luck," said Raptors center Marc Gasol.
"It's good that the Libra tonight d a was, "said Nurse.  It is a cliché to call sport a customs game, but there are also clichés for a reason. They are often true, and in this case, this inch of Leonard's shot, which dodges only Embiid's fingertips and the ball rolling forwards and to the net at the edge instead of backwards and to the ground, could be the future of not only the Raptors, but also the Raptors change the entire NBA.
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Kawhi Brings Toronto to the Eastern Conference Final! https://t.co/lEeXsbuuDW[19659019<LeonardsSituationinTorontoistgutdokumentiertImLaufedesSommerswürfelteMasaiUjiriderPräsidentdesRaptors-TeamsnachdemerentschiedenhattedassseinsehrgutesTeameinPlateauerreichthatteundverzweifeltnacheinemgroßenTeamAusschauhaltenwürde:Ergabdem San Antonio Spurs in exchange for fan favorites DeMar DeRozan the dice the Angry Leonard. Leonard will be a free agent this summer. The Raptors had a season to convince him. Reaching the final or winning a championship would not provide any assurance, but there is no better recruiting tool.
That was exactly what was at stake in Game 7, where Leonard had to make his way to 41 points. There were sections where he seemed to be the only Raptor who was willing and interested in taking a shot. A loss in such circumstances could have undermined all of Toronto's efforts. Instead, the Raptors presented Leonard with a present, except for a moment he will never forget, and which he so rarely begrudges: the opportunity to feel.
"I'm a guy who behaves like I've been there before, probably the last time you saw me screaming (during his time in San Antonio)," Leonard said. "Whenever it's a moment that I have not really experienced, I'm probably trying to give some feeling and show it and just let it come out."
Ron Turenne / Getty Images
Like Leonard told reporters how human emotion escaped, Embiid was among his teammates picking orange slices from a black Tupperware container and searching for answers. The locker room was quiet. Jimmy Butler studied a printout of a box score.
Embiid had played 45 minutes that night, a figure that seemed inscrutable a few years ago when he recovered from several surgeries and was wrapped in bubble wrap. This was not his best performance. He fought intermittently on offense and finished the game with a solid 21 points in 6-on-18 shooting, along with 11 rebounds, three blocks and four assists.
Meaningful: Like the whole season. The Sixers were bleeding when he left the ground. He was her best and most influential player, just as he had done all year. He had given everything this season and played more games and minutes than ever before. Leonard's shot seemed to break him.
After the ball fell to the ground, he fell into Marc Gasol's arms.
"You will be back in this position," Gasol said. "Do not see that as a failure, losing is not a failure."
T.J. McConnell, Embiid's longtime team-mate and the only player remaining from the The Process years, led Embiid back to the locker room where he was hit by his girlfriend. She wiped his tears away. She put her hand on his cheek. She wrapped her arms around his neck.
"Have you ever lost a game 7?" he asked General Manager Elton Brand later. Brand told him he had done it.
Embiid showered and got dressed. He spoke with Butler on the podium to reporters.
"I do not know, I mean, I do not know … Game 7. Losing a game this way Last shot after a hard-fought game I feel we had a chance, a lot of things", he offered when asked what he felt. Then he summed up his thoughts more closely: "It's shit, I do not know, I can not explain it, it's just shit."
In this locker room, it hurts us all, but on your question with Joel, he will look into the rearview mirror and remember it, "said Sixer head coach Brett Brown," He's getting better and smarter and stronger and getting more involved in it Be clear about what it takes to play longer than we can. "
The question now is, who will be with him on this trip? Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris are both free agents (Butler declined when Ben Simmons is about to expand, and of course there is Brown, who has been fueling rumors for months that Sixes CEO Josh Harris is pricing in Brown's job if he does not lead the team to the final of the conference It seems nonsensical to allow a few jumps to decide on the future of a coach, but that Harris refused to publicly support Brown, he says.
The two men met briefly For the tipoff half way. The conversation ended with a punch. After the defeat, Brown was asked if he tackled these rumors with self-responsibility.
"We talked a lot internally, the club can respond," Brown said. He added, "I'm proud of what we've built, and taking this next step is the mission."
For the Sixers, this next step must wait. The Raptors can continue meanwhile. Maybe they hit the Milwaukee Bucks, maybe they'll fall. Thanks to a few centimeters her season lives on for now, and with her comes hope for now and beyond.
Yaron Weitzman reports on the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow Yaron on Twitter, @YaronWeitzman and subscribe to his newsletter here.