The Toronto Raptors are going to the Eastern Conference Finals thanks to the bounciest buzzer-beater you will ever see under normal gravitational conditions. Sunday’s Game 7 against the Philadelphia 76ers was tied at 90 when Kawhi Leonard launched a last-second jumper from the corner. The shot pogo-ed on the rim four times before it finally fell though the net and tipped the series in Toronto’s favor. Boing.
Leonard’s shot was the first buzzer-beater in a Game 7 in NBA history. (Michael Jordan’s jumper over Craig Ehlo came in Game 5 of a best-of-5 first-round series.) While all buzzer-beaters are exciting, this one looked as if the production crew had edited it together for maximum suspense. Perhaps the stunt coordinator from Teen Wolf was involved. This shot was real, though! You can’t fake this insanity.
The game itself bounced back and forth, and it seemed destined for overtime after Jimmy Butler’s late, breakaway layup tied the score. However, the finale would occur in regulation. Leonard’s fall-away prayer was a theatrical set piece, and each bounce escalated the drama. A close viewing reveals character development, surprise, betrayal, and, finally, resolution.
Bounce No. 1: Leonard sinks into a crouch by the Raptors’ bench.
Bounce No. 2: Leonard’s hands slump towards the floor.
Bounce No. 3: Serge Ibaka and James Ennis prepare to grab the rebound, even though the buzzer sounded three bounces and two full seconds ago.
Bounce No. 4: Leonard bolts up and, for one of the first times in his adult life, shows emotion in a public forum. He knows it’s going in.