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Kawhi Leonard Clutch Buzzer Beater Sends Raptors to Conference Finals

Eighteen years later, Kawhi Leonard made the shot that Vince Carter missed.

A hard-fought, unpredictable, and utterly insane series has finally come to an end with the Toronto Raptors moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals for the second time in franchise history and it’s going to be difficult to find a more iconic moment in Raptors history.

“It was great,” Leonard said following the 92-90 Game 7 victory. “That’s something I’ve never experienced before, Game 7, game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment. It’s something I can look back on in my career.”

Not the most efficient of shooting nights, The Klaw was able to hit the shots that matter in crunch time. Shooting 16-for-39 from the field, Leonard finished with 41-points, which included a deep two-pointer with under two minutes to go and of course the off-balanced, fadeaway jumper to secure the win.

“I’m a guy that acts like I’ve been there before. So probably the last time you’ve seen me scream was when we won,” Leonard said. “So whenever it’s like a moment where I haven’t really experienced, I’ll probably try to give some emotion, show some emotion, and let it just come out. Tonight was one of those nights.”

Who knows if Leonard will remain a Raptor past this year, but what is for certain is, the Raptors are on their way to the final four, with hopes to clinch their first Finals berth in team history. The third and last opponent standing in their way of a Final’s date are the Milwaukee Bucks, a team that has waltzed through their first two playoff opponents and have been waiting patiently since outlasting the Boston Celtics in Game 5.

But in what was a game of runs, the Raptors were able to outlast their tough-minded opponents. They won the battle on the glass (+8), protected the ball better (five fewer turnovers), and received a huge boost from their bench. Serge Ibaka finished with 17 points, including three huge three-pointers, while Fred VanVleet played vital minutes in the first half when Kyle Lowry fell into foul trouble and sprained his thumb.

“I fell, it popped out, I popped it back in,” Lowry commented on the injury following the game. “It kind of was loose, I was just trying to figure out how to pass the ball, I couldn’t really pass the ball and grip the ball, but that doesn’t matter, I’m fine, I played, we won the game, we’ll get some rest and try heal it up as fast as possible.”

In the second half, the Raptors received the Lowry they need to pull out the Game 7 win. Aggressive, grabbing key rebounds, going after loose balls, taking charges, Lowry did all the little things that may not have been seen on the stat sheet, but were all crucial components of a big team win.

All in all, head coach Nick Nurse was very pleased with how the Raptors closed out their second round series.

“We just were doing it all,” coach Nick Nurse said. “We were pressuring the ball, we were corralling the right guys for a split second with two, we were either rotating or hustling back to our own so just because we put two on the ball it didn’t mean something was automatically open. And then we rebounded it after we contested.

“Those possessions defensively were awesome.”

Win a third round date booked with the Bucks, the Raptors will now get two days off to prepare for their next opponent with Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals slated for Wednesday night.

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