Kawhi Leonard squatted and watched as his moon shot from the corner bounced off the rim an agonizing once, twice, three times, then four before finally dropping through the hoop.
Leonard, acquired last summer for moments exactly like this, scored at the buzzer high over the outstretched hand of Joel Embiid and from in front of Toronto’s bench, lifting the 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.
“It was great,” Leonard said. “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.”
Leonard had never experienced it because it had never happened. According to the NBA’s Twitter account, it was the first buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history.
The normally stoic Leonard, who finished with 41 points, looked to the Scotiabank Arena rafters and let out a roar as the shot fell, and he was swarmed by his teammates.
“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.”
It was indeed. And now the Raptors face the Bucks, who dispatched Boston in five games, in the Eastern Conference Finals, beginning on Wednesday in Milwaukee.