TORONTO (AP) — Kawhi Leonard bounced, bounced, bounced, bounced the Philadelphia 76ers out of the playoffs.
Leonard hit a shot from the corner over Joel Embiid at the buzzer that bounced off the rim four times before falling to give the Toronto Raptors a 92-90 victory over the 76ers on Sunday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series. It was the first winning buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history.
“It was great,” Leonard said. “That’s something I never experienced before, Game 7, a game-winning shot. It was a blessing to be able to get to that point and make that shot and feel that moment.”
After Philadelphia’s Jimmy Butler tied it with a driving layup with 4.2 seconds left, Toronto used its final timeout to draw up a play for Leonard, who dribbled toward the right corner and launched the high-arching shot.
It bounced to the top of the backboard, hit the near side of the rim again, then the other side twice before going through, setting off a wild celebration as the Raptors advanced to the conference finals for the second time in four seasons. They will open the conference finals Wednesday night at Milwaukee.
“It’s tough,” Butler said. “Nobody likes to lose, not that way.
Leonard scored 41 points on 16-of-39 shooting.
“He was awesome at both ends,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s his uniqueness. Not only can he get you 30 and anywhere upwards from that, but there’s moments when he can just decide you’re not scoring, either.”
The Raptors ran a similar play for Leonard during the first round against Orlando. That time, he caught the ball and shot without dribbling.
“Remembering that moment, I knew I had some time to try to get some space, rather than just catch and shoot the ball,” Leonard said. “I ended up finding a spot that I like, that I work on. I just knew I had to shoot it high.”
Serge Ibaka added 17 points, and Pascal Siakam had 11 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto.
Embiid, in tears as he left the court, led the 76ers with 21 points and 11 rebounds. JJ Redick had 17 points, Butler added 16, and Tobias Harris had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“I give Toronto credit for a tenacious, switching defense,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We had a hard time turning the corner once they did switch.”
Redick tied it at 85 with a three-point play with 3:29 left. Nearly two minutes passed before the next basket, Leonard’s long jumper with 1:41 to go that was initially ruled a 3, but changed to a 2 after video review.
On Philadelphia’s next possession, Kyle Lowry forced a steal near midcourt and fed Siakam for a fast-break layup, giving Toronto an 89-85 lead with 1:14 left.
Butler made one of two at the line and Leonard missed a pair of jump shots, giving the 76ers the ball down 89-86 with 24.1 seconds remaining. Embiid was fouled and made both, cutting it to 89-88 with 12 seconds left.
Leonard was fouled with 10.8 seconds left. He made the first, but missed the second, setting up Butler’s tying layup.
“We did a lot of things that we could have done better but we found a way to win the game,” Lowry said. “That’s all that matters.”
76ers: Embiid shot 6 for 18. … Philadelphia finished 9 for 27 from 3-point range. … The 76ers made 17 turnovers leading to 21 points for the Raptors.
Raptors: In its only other conference finals, Toronto lost to LeBron James and Cleveland in six games in 2016. … Toronto went 0 for 8 from 3-point range in the first quarter. It finished 7 for 30 … Leonard had Toronto’s only assist of the first.
The 76ers are 11-21 in winner-take-all playoff games.
Toronto opens the Eastern Conference Finals at Milwaukee on Wednesday night. The Raptors lost three of four against the Bucks in the regular season and finished two games behind Milwaukee in the race for the NBA’s best record.