Toronto Raptors: Remembering Kawhi Leonard’s Game 7 buzzer-beater

Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Game 7 between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers will air on Tuesday night giving us a chance to relive Kawhi Leonard’s iconic buzzer-beater.

Over the past couple of weeks, sports broadcasters have tried to fill the void of no live sports with reruns of memorable games including the Toronto Raptors championship run.

On Tuesday night, Sportsnet will air one of the more memorable games of the Raptors quest for the Larry O’Brien trophy. Now without a question, Game 6 against the Golden State Warriors sits at the top of the list, there is little to no debate about that but Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers sits right behind that.

The moment couldn’t have been scripted better but as Nick Nurse recalls,  Kawhi Leonard wasn’t the first option on the inbound.  Apparently, Kyle Lowry was the first look but Leonard put himself in a position to get the ball then you know the rest as he would go all the way to the corner in an attempt to shake Joel Embiid, who was guarding him.

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From there, you remember seeing the ball get launched over the hulking centre and bounced a few times off the rim before the crowd at Scotiabank Arena erupted. Leonard admits to Maclean’s magazine that he missed that shot earlier and came up short so he knew he needed to get it up higher.

As I mentioned in the article about that game, there were many points about that buzzer-beater that make it remarkable in the moment. It was the only game-winning shot at the buzzer in Game 7 of an NBA playoff game and Leonard averged 34.7 points, 9.9 rebounds, four assists and 1.3 steals per game.

That game put a bow on an intense series that saw many swings between Toronto and Philadelphia. It also showed why Leonard earned the reputation as an elite performer in the post-season only furthering his legendary status among Raptors’ fans.

Just imagine what was at stake in that game, if the Raptors don’t win, Leonard walks without getting the Raptors to where they were expected to go and the questions about the trade probably get brought up. It’s also quick to forget that the Raptors were only at the halfway point.

If you read some of the analysis of the Raptors at the time, many were quick to point out that Toronto didn’t have their best effort. They could have easily lost that game in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, they were able to rely on their strong defence and Leonard to carry the team in those final moments.

So when you watch that game, just try to remember the magnitude of the moment and what was still to come because you got the sense that this team started to believe that they could pull it off and a big part of that had to do with Kawhi.

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What are your memories from that Game 7 buzzer-beater? Where were you when you watched it the first time? Let us know in the comments below.