Note: Like another article I posted earlier this week, this article was written for a class. For this specific task we were asked to go to a significant point in sports history, build up suspense and than backtrack, explaining how both teams got to that point.
4.2 seconds left on the clock, score tied 90-90. Game 7 of the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors are inbounding in the front court after calling a timeout. Gasol to inbound the ball. He passes to the Raptors superstar Kawhi Leonard who is guarded by Ben Simmons. Kawhi makes his way around the 3-point line, eventually shaking off Simmons. Philadelphia center Joel Embiid then steps forward to guard Kawhi as he raps around and attempts a jump shot. There is no question whether he got it off in time, the only thing we do not know at this moment is if it will go in. The ball bounces on the rim once, twice, then three times, and then one last time before dropping. Wherever this ball lands will decide the fate of both of these teams. Now what will it be?
This past season the Raptors made a blockbuster trade. They sent star DeMar DeRozen along with Jakob Poltl and a protected first rounder to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Kawhi had been injured the previous season and had only played 9 games. Making this trade was a massive gamble for Toronto as they were trading away their best player for a player that they were not certain would be healthy. Kawhi’s contract also ended the coming season, so if he was not 100%, the Raptors would just be trading away their star for nothing. The Raptors had a very good reason for making this trade as they lost early in the playoffs with DeRozan and Lowry side-by-side for so many seasons. The Raptors needed to make a change and that's exactly what they did.
The Philadelphia 76ers were a very good team. Their starting lineup consisted of 4 all-star caliber players and one extremely good sharpshooter. Just before their 15th game of the season on November 12th, Phili made a big trade. They sent Robert Covington, along with Jarryd Bayless, Dario Saric and a 2022 second rounder to Minnesota in order to acquire Jimmy Butler and Justin Patton. Butler is a top-tier player in the league but there has always been one problem with him: he demands the ball. It was anyone's guess whether or not Butler would be a good fit for the 76ers as they were a team with many stars that demanded the ball. Later in the year on February 6th the 76ers made another trade. They sent Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala and Landry Shamet to the L.A.Clippers in order to receive all-star snub Tobias Harris, Boban Marjonovic and Mike Scott. At the time we assumed that L.A. made this trade to make cap space for Kawhi in the coming free agency, which ended up being the case. This was yet another risky move for the 76ers because it meant adding another star to this team with already 3 all-stars. Tobias Harris does not demand the ball like the other 3 stars on this team but he still wants to score. At this time everyone wanted to see how the rest of the season would go for this powerhouse team.
The Raptors played a very good season, getting MVP numbers from Kawhi in just 60 games. Kawhi was under load management and was forced to not play some games in order to rest his body for the postseason. Throughout the season the Raptors did not drop below the 2nd seed in the East and they spent months at number 1. The Raptors ended up going into the playoffs as the 2nd seed. They faced the Orlando Magic in the first round where they easily won 4 straight games after dropping the first one, to finish the series 4-1. The Raptors then were matched up against the 76ers in the second round. They were trading games back and forth all series, ending up at a 3-3 tie.
Phili started off the season a little bit slow but really picked things up after acquiring Butler. After acquiring him they jumped from the fifth to the third spot where they stayed for most of the season. The 76ers finished the regular season as the 3rd seed and were matched up against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. Like the Raptors, the 76ers lost their first game and then won the next 4. The 76ers were then matched up against the Raptors in the second round where they traded games all the way up to game 7.
The ball slowly dropped into the basket, sending the 76ers home and the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Raptors then went on to win their series against the Bucks 4-2 and then beat the Warriors in the Finals 4-2, bringing home the Larry OB.