Ecstasy in Toronto: Kawhi wins the series with a legend shot

An impossible basket that bounced four times on the rim qualifies the Raptors for the Eastern end. Great defense of Marc and great match of Ibaka.

Toronto Raptors was a seemingly amortized project, brilliant but finally short-course, when it fell last season against the LeBron James Cavs in the Eastern semifinals. It was the third time in three playoffs (2016, 17 and 18) that LeBron (12-2 total, 10 wins in a row) imposed his will (and his basketball) on a team to a team to win more than 50 games It ended up meaning nothing. A kind of allergy to the fight for the title, a spring anemia that made many think of a closing settlement against which rebel Masai Ujiri, one of the best managers of the NBA: Dwane Casey out despite being elected Coach of the Year, DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio despite being a star involved to the fullest with a franchise that had come to personify: professionalism, successes in Regular Season ... and problems later.

Since that summer of changes from inside, a revolution without blood, until this May 12 that is already history of Toronto Raptors. For this he took over the Nick Nurse team. For this Marc Gasol came (Joel Embiid has averaged 17.6 points, 4 losses and 37% shots in the series) in February at the cost of losing to another Toronto classic, Jonas Valanciunas. And for this, of course, FOR this was sent to DeRozan to San Antonio and bet on a Kawhi Leonard who wanted to play in California and had a year without almost being seen by a court and playing cat and mouse with a franchise nothing accustomed to the mess like the Spurs. Without knowing very well what was going on in the head or Kawhi's battered thigh and without having any impression that he would sign to continue in Canada this season, Ujiri opted for Kawhi as a vitamin for his franchise and as an antidote against the paralyzing fear of cruelty of the playoffs. A cold-blooded killer, almost robotic in fact, for an overly emotional environment when they came badly given, too dependent on wind currents. And, in physical fullness (almost forgotten) one of the three best players in the world.

A basket for the history of the playoffs

Kawhi eliminated the Sixers in a seventh game for the story that closed with an impossible suspension on the speaker , the first buzzer beater of the history of the seventh and the third winning basket of a series of the last twenty years. The other two has been scored by Damian Lillard, the last in the first round against the Thunder. Kawhi, just before, missed a free kick that allowed Butler to tie with a brave penetration (90-90) four seconds from the end. With that mistake in his head, he took the last ball against Ben Simmons, went to the right corner of the attack and stood up before a Joel Embiid (Simmons and Embiid: the core of the Process in a last desperate defense) that stretched his most 213 centimeters almost, or so it seemed, to the roof of a Scotiabank Arena that held its breath while the ball bounced four times in the hoop before, finally, entering and deciding the last ticket for the conference finals. First it seemed like it was going short and then it was long, but all the parables led this time to victory, the antithesis of the tradition until yesterday of a franchise that lived, surely, its happiest moment. The bad fario did not go away with the departure of LeBron. Not that his luck has changed, is that now they have Kawhi Leonard.

In an image that is already history of the NBA, Kawhi saw bounce and bounce the ball off the track, squatting and with Embiid at his side. Absorbed in a second that seemed like a life and that separated the winner from a loser who broke down crying on the way to the locker room, although it sounds paradoxical, an image of greater strength than we have seen the Cameroonian, a player so many times over, almost frivolous. Embiid will emerge better from this final basket, this defeat, these tears and this seven-fight fight against Marc Gasol in which, with much suffering and physical problems, he has emerged as a true leader: +80 the Sixers with him in field, -97 without him throughout a series that sends the Raptors to Milwaukee (Wednesday, first game of the final) and that guarantees that the Finals will start in the East, whoever plays them. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard, final contenders for the Conference throne that left LeBron free and for which they would not fight those who seemed in summer favorites to take him, Sixers and Celtics. Two historical before a summer of divan and vertigo.

A game won in the trenches

In this era of scientific metrics, advanced statistics and reformulations of efficiency, the seventh games are an atavistic world, a post-apocalyptic scenario that reminds another NBA. A fight of bare fists, of stones and sticks whenThey have exhausted all intelligent sources of energy. That's how it was in Denver just before and that's how it was in Toronto. Nobody threw well, nobody played brilliantly and the rotations were limited to, by side, seven and eight players. In the Sixers the big problem of this team, with a one quintet of Playstation, reached its most grotesque end: all the holders played more than 40 minutes and Monroe was on track two ... and ended with a -9. In Philadelphia they accelerated the Process with the transfers by Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, who are now finishing contract, as JJ Redick. He was an all in at the first This post LeBron and, after problems of physics (injuries) and chemistry (style), everything was solved in a Kawhi shot that bounced four times on the rim before entering. This is the sport.

Because the Sixers only unleashed in a stretch of the third quarter (from 50-41 to 50-57) but were always in the match despite a first partial 13 points and constant implementation problems that were radicalized in the last quarter: air balls, losses, possessions consumed without throwing ... despite the regrets, tied at 80 to six minutes after the end of the tie, at 85 to 3:30 and at 90 a second of the horn, when Kawhi's shot was flying. Before the disgrace, 16 rebounds awarded in his ring and 15 losses that ended in 24 shots more than the Raptors (89-65), the key factor in a duel in which he scored by volume, not by finesse. Kawhi added 17 points in the last quarter (25 the Raptors) and 13 of the 15 of his team in the last six minutes. Acabó with 41 and 8 rebounds based on throwing 39 times (16/39, 2/9 in triples) . Are the seventh games: account who comes to the shore safe and sound, not how.

Marc Gasol scored 7 points, took 11 rebounds, put 3 blocks and returned to indulge in a fierce battle with Embiid (21 + 11, 6/18 in shots, 1/6 in triples) of which the Sixers could not take great advantages. With discreet Harris and Butler and Simmons hiding in attack as during most of the series, Redick's four triples looked like 400 ... but they were not enough either. In the Raptors all put their droplet to fill the glass that filled Kawhi, who consumed only half of the possessions of his team and only added after assistance three of his 16 baskets. In a duel in which the benches looked like papier-mâché, part of the scenery, Serge Ibaka was decisive (17 points, 8 rebounds, 3/5 in triples after a 0/9 in the previous six games) . The unexpected hero , many small things on the back of a giant: Kawhi Leonard.

The Raptors go to Milwaukee to play the pass to the NBA Finals. The season, Ujiri's big bet, has already been legitimized, surely. The big prize remains. That's why Kawhi came and he, Kawhi Leonard, is the big reason why the Bucks have to be very careful if they want to fight for the ring for the first time since 1974. The Scotiabank Arena, after this unforgettable Sunday, has changed the complexes by the war paintings. And the Raptors, behind traumas finally after the best night of its 24 years of history, want more. Now yes: more.

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