In a game that mirrored so many others in these playoffs, the Toronto Raptors once again found themselves digging out of a double-digit hole, this time in the third quarter of Game 6 in the Conference Finals against Milwaukee. Thanks to the heroics of Kawhi Leonard and some keen shot making by the bench, it would end up being the final game of the Eastern Conference playoff gauntlet for the Raptors — because they’re advancing.
According to ESPN’s odds calculator, which measures a team’s chances of winning a game play-by-play, the Raptors had just a 5.2 percent chance of pulling off the victory once the Bucks pulled ahead 76-61 with just two minutes remaining in the third quarter. From those Ersan Ilyasova free throws on, the game became Toronto’s through and through.
None of it would’ve been possible without Kawhi Leonard — who managed to control the game late in the third by himself en-route to a career high 17 rebounds — scoring or assisting on all 10 points of the 10-0 run that landed the Raptors within striking distance heading into the fourth quarter. And just like Game 5, the Raptors would have to scale a mountain that has rarely been scaled; Milwaukee would suffer their only two losses of the entire season after holding a lead heading into the fourth quarter, in Games 5 and 6.
Once the final frame came about, the Raptors dominated from start to finish. While Kawhi carried the group back into the game, his teammates stepped up in the beginning of the fourth (while Leonard was afforded some valuable rest time) by sinking four straight baskets as part of a 9-2 run, extending the overall run to 19-2 over a four minute time span. And after Leonard re-entered the game, the superstar would finish off the already-legendary 26-3 run in the best possible way— by slamming home an incredible transition dunk, courtesy of a Kyle Lowry steal-and-assist:
At that point, the momentum shift was clear as day. Fans who had been brooding seven in-game minutes ago were suddenly doing back flips with excitement. The dream was becoming a reality in front of our eyes — and these were the exact moments you can point to as the engine behind the change.
You know the rest of the story — Toronto managed to make more clutch plays down the stretch, securing the Game 6 win and completing a “ladies and gentlemen” sweep by winning four straight after dropping the first two games in Milwaukee. Now the Raptors stay home to host the Golden State Warriors.
The Raptors are headed to the NBA Finals. We are all going to the NBA Finals.
WE’RE GOING TO THE NBA FINALS!