TORONTO - They fought, scrapped, and kept battling, but eventually the one player who couldn’t be solved ruined -- and ended -- the 76ers’ season.
Kawhi Leonard’s last-second shot over Joel Embiid as time expired ripped the Sixers’ heart out in the Raptors’ 92-90 win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinal.
“I just tried to shoot it over him and knew I had to shoot it high,” Leonard said.
» WATCH: See Kawhi Leonard’s shot
The quiet Sixers locker room at Scotiabank Arena spoke volumes as the players prepared to embark on an offseason they were hoping was still weeks away.
“I was hoping it was going to miss,” said Sixers forward Tobias Harris, who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. "Bounced around there a couple of times.”
Four times to be exact.
“When it went in, it was pure disappointment,” Harris said. “It was a heck of a shot, and give him credit and give them credit. They made plays and were able to win this game.”
And now the Sixers have to ponder a long offseason after being eliminated for the second straight year in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They lost in five games to the Boston Celtics at this same juncture last year.
The players will have nightmares of Leonard, who scored 41 points and averaged 34.7 in the series.
“It stinks that the one shot was how it ended for us, but I thought we had our opportunities on both sides of the court, and some plays we didn’t capitalize,” Harris said.
Being outrebounded overall, 49-41, and 16-5 on the offensive glass was a key for the Sixers.
For a while in the third quarter, it didn’t appear as if the game would come down to a last shot.
The game was getting away from the Sixers when the Raptors went up, 50-41, on a short floating jumper by Marc Gasol. The crowd was on the verge of exploding when Sixers coach Brett Brown called a timeout with 9 minutes, 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Sixers came out of that timeout and proceeded to go on a 16-0 run to lead 57-50. Harris had a three-pointer in that run.
“We got the ball to drop for us and made plays defensively and limited them to one shot and were able to get out and get going. But unfortunately it wasn’t enough today,” Harris said.
To his credit, Leonard willed his team to win, scoring 15 of his points in the fourth quarter.
“We played hard, played together. We battled. But when you lose on a shot like that, it takes it out of you,” said Sixers forward James Ennis, who scored six points off the bench and spent some time guarding Leonard. “We knew he was going to come out really aggressive.”
Leonard took 39 of the Raptors’ 89 shots.
“We tried to make it physical [on Leonard], but we came a little a little short,” Ennis said.
Sixers forward Jimmy Butler, who had 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, said the message afterwards to his teammates was to keep their heads high.
“We had a hell of a season. It is tough,” Butler said. “Nobody likes to lose that way. But they did their job. They played a great game of basketball and executed. I thought we did as well. We just came up short in the end.”
» READ MORE: Observations from the Sixers’ loss