Raptors, Trail Blazers clinch game sevens to reach NBA final four

Both teams are advancing to the NBA final tour. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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Raptors, Trail Blazers clinch game sevens to reach NBA final four

  • The Raptors advance to the NBA final-four where they will play the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks
  • The Portland Trail Blazers rallied on the back of CJ McCollum’s 37 points to stun the Nuggets 100-96 in Denver

LOS ANGELES: Kawhi Leonard bounced in the game-winning shot at the buzzer as the Toronto Raptors advanced to the Eastern Conference finals with a 92-90 win over the visiting Philadelphia 76ers in a heart-stopping game seven on Sunday.
Game seven was a microcosm of the wildly-unpredictable series with each team taking turns making runs or being inept until the biggest twist of all from Leonard finished it off in dramatic style.
“I got a fortuitous bounce,” said Leonard. “I just shot it as hard as I could. I got some loft on it and it made the ball bounce soft and it ended up going in.”
The Raptors advance to the NBA final-four where they will play the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in game one of the Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.
With the score tied 90-90 and the game appearing to be headed to overtime, Leonard took matters into his own hands by getting open for a long shot from the right side. His arching moon ball at the buzzer bounced twice on each side of the rim before dropping in to clinch the series for the Raptors.
Leonard finished with a game high 41 points while Pascal Siakam tallied 11 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors whose players had a combined 21 games of experience in game sevens compared to just nine combined games by the Sixers players.
Toronto has leaned heavily on Leonard all season long and Sunday he delivered with the help of his supporting staff. Serge Ibaka had 17 points, Kyle Lowry chipped in 10 and Marc Gasol grabbed 11 rebounds.
Joel Embiid led the Sixers attack with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Tobias Harris had 15 points and 10 rebounds.
Elsewhere, the Portland Trail Blazers rallied on the back of CJ McCollum’s 37 points to stun the Nuggets 100-96 in Denver and book a Western Conference finals date with NBA champions Golden State.
With Portland star Damian Lillard struggling to get shots to fall, Denver exploded out of the gates, seizing a 29-17 first-quarter lead that they stretched to as many as 17 in the second period.
McCollum kept the Blazers in it, his driving basket giving them their first lead of the game, 71-70 with 12 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Nuggets had reduced a seven-point deficit to one when McCollum drained a step-back jumper with 12.4 seconds left to stretch Portland’s lead to 98-95.
Evan Turner, who scored just four points in the first six games of the series, scored 10 of his 14 in the fourth quarter for Portland.
After Nikola Jokic’s last-gasp three-point attempt hit the rim Turner grabbed the rebound and the clock ran down.
Despite the third-quarter departure of Rodney Hood with a hyperextended knee, Portland booked their first trip to the conference finals since 2000.
They’ll open their best-of-seven series against the Warriors on Tuesday with a place in the NBA finals on the line.
Despite his shooting woes, Lillard contributed with 10 rebounds and eight assists to go with his 13 points. He connected on just three of 17 shots from the floor — but that included two three-pointers in the fourth quarter.
“I think for us the biggest thing was just to take it one possession at a time,” McCollum said. “We came out a little tight defensively ... Our biggest thing was just one stop at a time, one possession at a time.”
Portland coach Terry Stotts called the victory “arguably the biggest win we’ve had in the franchise in a long time.
“To be a part of it and the way we did, I’m thrilled for our guys tonight,” he said.
Jokic led Denver with 29 points. Jamal Murray had 14 points on four-of-18 shooting.
But Denver coach Michael Malone said Jokic blamed himself for the Nuggets’ inability to hang on.
“For him to be as emotional and upset as he was speaks to his caring,” Malone said. “He was upset because he thinks he didn’t do enough for us to win tonight.”


Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

Updated 26 May 2019
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Raptors beat Bucks to reach first NBA final

TORONTO: Kawhi Leonard had 27 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Toronto Raptors into the NBA Finals for the first time with a 100-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night.
The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win the series in six games and will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.
Pascal Siakam scored 18 points, Kyle Lowry had 17 and Fred VanVleet 14 for the Raptors, who used a 26-3 run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth to turn the game in their favor.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks with 21 points and 11 rebounds, but the NBA’s top team in the regular season saw its bid for a first finals berth in 45 years come to a disappointing end with a fourth consecutive defeat.
Down 76-71 to start the fourth, the Raptors tied it with an 8-2 run while Leonard and Antetokounmpo were both on the bench. Ibaka’s dunk with 10:32 to go tied it at 78.
Antetokounmpo returned after a timeout, but Leonard kept sitting. That didn’t matter to Toronto, with Siakam’s basket giving the Raptors an 80-78 lead, their first lead since it was 6-3.
Leonard’s one-handed slam after Lowry’s steal gave Toronto an 87-79 lead with 6:46 to go before the Bucks responded. George Hill answered with a layup, Brook Lopez converted a three-point play and Antetokounmpo scored to cut it to 87-86 with 5:19 to go.
Lowry and Lopez swapped baskets before Gasol’s 3 put the Raptors up 92-88 with 3:50 left. After another basket by Lopez, Leonard made a 3 to push Toronto’s lead to 95-90 with 3:04 to play. It was Leonard’s first 3 after missing his first seven attempts of the game.
Toronto made 12 of 27 3-point attempts, including four of eight in the fourth quarter.
Siakam, who missed a pair of free throws late in the fourth quarter of Toronto’s double-overtime win in Game 3, hit one to make it 98-94. Leonard grabbed the rebound on the second and was fouled. He made both, putting the Raptors up 100-94 with 3.9 seconds to go.
Brogdon and Middleton each made a pair from long range as the Bucks shot 6 for 9 from 3-point range in the first and closed the quarter with 10 unanswered points to lead 31-18. Toronto shot 6 for 19 in the opening quarter, missing six straight twice in the first 12 minutes.
The Bucks extended their lead to 38-23 on a 3 by Ersan Ilyasova with 7:46 left until half. Toronto cut the gap to 46-43 on a 3 by VanVleet with 1:07 left in the second, but Eric Bledsoe answered with a 3 and Antetokounmpo split a pair at the line, giving the Bucks a 50-43 advantage at the intermission.
The lead went back to 15 in the third before Leonard finished the period with a flourish. He had eight points in the final 2:01 and Toronto closed with a 10-0 run, cutting a 15-point deficit to 76-71.
TIP-INS
Bucks: Milwaukee shot 4 for 16 in the second but three of its made baskets were 3-pointers. ... The Bucks had six points in the paint in the first half. ... Coach Mike Budenholzer was called for a technical foul on Milwaukee’s first possession of the second half. Leonard missed the free throw. ... Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 10 at the free throw line.
Raptors: Danny Green, who missed all three of his field goal attempts in 16 minutes in Game 5, had another rough night. Green shot 0 for 4 in 14 minutes. ... Leonard’s 17 rebounds were his most in any game this postseason. ... Lowry had eight assists.
DRAKE WATCH
Raptors fan and ‘global ambassador’ Drake sat in his regular seat adjacent to the Toronto bench. The rapper wore a black hoodie with ‘KAWHI ME A RIVER’ printed on the back.
UP NEXT
The NBA Finals comes to Canada for the first time when the Raptors host the Warriors on Thursday night. Toronto swept Golden State in the regular season.