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May 15, 2019, 7:44:00 AM

Narrow Raptors win puts them into Eastern Conference final

There have been tight margins for much of the first two rounds of the NBA playoffs, with games that could have gone either way swinging suddenly to one team.

When it came to the final match between the Toronto Raptors and the Philadelphia 76ers, tied at three games each, it was hard to know exactly how it was going play out. However, the Raptors had home advantage and made full use of it as they squeezed out a 92-90 victory on Sunday night and earned a spot in the Eastern Conference final against the Milwaukee Bucks.

In fairness, it would have been a bitter pill to swallow for whichever team lost, and despite the 76ers putting together their best side in years, they still need to figure out how to get all their potential stars firing in the same direction.

For Toronto, it was delight and mayhem at the final whistle, with Kawhi Leonard nailing an incredible buzzer-beater at the end and sending the home crowd into raptures.

It was torture for the Sixers, as they watched Leonard’s shot hit the rim and bounce there four times before it finally fell in.

Leonard not only sealed the win, but he did it with a buzzer- beater in game seven of an NBA playoff, something that has never happened before. It is a kick in the teeth for the Sixers but sheer joy for the Raptors, who deserved their second-seed status heading into the postseason.

The Eastern Conference final is now likely to focus on who will come out top between Giannis Antetokounmpo and Leonard, with both men in inspiring form in the first two rounds. If the Milwaukee Bucks have a better containment strategy than the Raptors, sports betting odds are likely to favour the team that managed a record number of wins during the regular season.

Describing it as “something I’ve never experienced before”, Leonard will feel vindicated in his efforts after many of his teammates failed to hit the heights needed to pin Philadelphia back. Toronto has several players capable of making a difference, but there are concerns that they won’t shine on the big stage as required.

It was so close for the Sixers, with Jimmy Butler tying it at 90 each with 4.2 seconds left before the Raptors took possession and charged down to the other end. Leonard made history here, but the Raptors know they need to make some improvements to defeat the Bucks.

Words: Noah Hart

Images: PA