Kawhi Leonard's bouncing buzzer-beater wins Game 7 for Raptors in absurd fashion

The Toronto Raptors gambled the entire future of their franchise on one year of Kawhi Leonard. On Sunday, that bet paid off.

Fueled by 41 points and a game-winner from their two-way superstar, the Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a thrilling 92-90 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

What started as a defensive-focused rock fight progressed into a thriller in the fourth quarter, where the Sixers erased a five-point lead with less than five minutes left and a four-point lead with less than one minutes left. What followed will go down in Raptors lore.

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Kawhi Leonard through his career
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Kawhi Leonard through his career
San Diego State Aztecs' Kawhi Leonard (L) and Connecticut Huskies' Kemba Walker scramble for a loose ball during the second half of their NCAA West Regional college basketball game in Anaheim, California March 24, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Kawhi Leonard stands with NBA Commissioner David Stern after being selected by the Indiana Pacers as the 15th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft in Newark, New Jersey June 23, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard (L) goes to the basket against Chicago Bulls' Joakim Noah (C) and Taj Gibson during the second half of their NBA basketball game in Chicago, February 11, 2013. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan (C), Kawhi Leonard (L) and Manu Ginobili celebrate after a basket against the Miami Heat in the first half during Game 3 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in San Antonio, Texas June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) dunks the ball during the second quarter against the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 21, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (9) and forward Kawhi Leonard (2) between plays against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
May 29, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots over Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) during the second half in game five of the Western Conference Finals of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat's LeBron James (R) looks to pass around San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard during the first quarter in Game 2 of their NBA Finals basketball series in San Antonio, Texas, June 8, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Stone (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)
Jun 15, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) celebrates in the locker room with the Finals MVP trophy after defeating the Miami Heat in game five of the 2014 NBA Finals at AT&T Center. The Spurs defeated the Heat 104-87 to win the NBA Finals. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 28, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) gets his NBA championship ring from San Antonio Spurs owner Peter Holt before the game against the Dallas Mavericks at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 13, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Western Conference forward Kawhi Leonard of the San Antonio Spurs (2) looks on during practice for the NBA All Star game at Ricoh Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport Basketball NBA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-02-13T174655Z_1762526181_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NBA-ALL-STAR-PRACTICE.JPG
Jan 12, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) shoots the ball over Los Angeles Lakers small forward Luol Deng (9) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 19, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (2) talks with head coach Gregg Popovich during the second half against the Sacramento Kings at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
May 14, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) reacts after an injury during the third quarter in game one of the Western conference finals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Spurs 113-111. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 20, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Kawhi Leonard (in suit) watches from the bench against the Golden State Warriors during the first half in game three of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 30: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball during the second half of an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena on October 30, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON- JANUARY 31 - Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) defends against Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) as the Toronto Raptors fall to the Milwaukee Bucks at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. January 31, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: General Manager of the Toronto Raptors Bobby Webster presents an All-Star ball to Kyle Lowry #7 and Kawhi Leonard #2 prior to an NBA game against the Washington Wizards at Scotiabank Arena on February 13, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 17: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors and Team LeBron drives to the basket against Team Giannis in the first quarter during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 16: Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (23) are all smiles as time is running out on the game. Toronto Raptors vs Orlando Magic in 2nd half action of Round 1, Game 2 of NBA playoff play at Scotiabank Arena. Raptors tie up the series, 1-1, with a win of 111-82. Toronto Star/Rick Madonik (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 30: All business coming out of a time out. From left, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43), Toronto Raptors guard Danny Green (14), Toronto Raptors center Marc Gasol (33), Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard (2) and Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7). Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors in 2ndhalf action of Game 1 of NBA Finals at Scotiabank Arena. Raptors win 118-109. Toronto Star/Rick Madonik (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 17: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors and Team LeBron drives to the basket against Team Giannis in the first quarter during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors battles for a rebound with Klay Thompson during Toronto's 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019, at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 13: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors celebrates with the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy after his team defeated the Golden State Warriors to win Game Six of the 2019 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 13, 2019 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 13: Kawhi Leonard of the Toronto Raptors appears with the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP trophy following the conclusion of Toronto's 114-110 win over the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on June 13, 2019 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. (Photo by Daniel Gluskoter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors holds the MVP trophy during the Toronto Raptors Victory Parade on June 17, 2019 in Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 4-2 to win the 2019 NBA Finals. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Totally how Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors drew it up

Jimmy Butler tied the game at 90 with four seconds left in regulation, giving the Raptors one chance to win it or face overtime. Naturally, the ball ended up in Leonard’s hands.

A running jump shot hit the rim, bounced 3 feet in the air, then bounced again and again before it finally went through, blowing the roof off the Scotiabank Arena.

Four bounces, two points, one series decided.

It looked even more ridiculous from a half-court angle.

The Raptors immediately mobbed the hero of the night once the ball fell through, as the dejected Sixers walked to their locker room, their biggest star in tears.

That improbable shot capped off a trigger-happy shooting night for the Raptors star. All things considered, needing 39 field goal attempts — as Leonard did on Sunday — to reach 41 points is pretty inefficient. It’s doubtful that anyone in Toronto is going to care.

Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard, second from left, celebrates his game-winning basket as time expired at the end of an NBA Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, in Toronto on Sunday, May 12, 2019. Toronto won 92-90. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

Kawhi’s shot avenges Vince Carter

Leonard’s shot quickly drew comparisons from Raptors fans with long memories to another Raptors-Sixers Game 7 from 18 years ago.

Down by one with two seconds left in the final game of the Raptors’ second round series against Allen Iverson’s Sixers, Vince Carter took the ball and shot it from nearly the same spot as Leonard did. It didn’t go as well it did on Sunday.

Throughout their existence, the Raptors have had stars, but none that have taken them to the promised land.

The DeMar DeRozan-Kyle Lowry teams of the recent past were good, but never got past LeBron James. Chris Bosh never got past the first round. That shot from Carter represented the farthest the team would ever get in the playoffs with him.

Leonard’s shot not only won a series for the Raptors, it should give fans hope that this time, it might all be different.

And now, a Sixers-Raptors recap from Magic Johnson

A thrilling night of basketball wouldn’t be complete without Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson there to tell us what just happened.

All true words from a man who literally quit his job as Lakers president so he could tweet without limits.

Bucks await Raptors in Eastern Conference finals

The Raptors are now headed to their first conference finals since 2016, but awaiting them will not be their constant tormentor in James.

Rather, it will be the closest thing the East has left to James in Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who stomped the Boston Celtics in five games. Game 1 tip-off is scheduled for Wednesday night.

Four more wins, and the Raptors will have gone further in a season than ever before. And with every series victory, the team likely gets a better chance to hold onto Leonard, their hero of the moment, in free agency next year.

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