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Raptors defeat Sixers to advance to East Finals vs. Bucks

Sixers, Raptors

The Raptors defeated the Sixers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday night in Toronto. The win in a fiercely-fought contest dominated by defense and missed jump shots sent the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.

This was a series in which the teams were evenly matched but often didn’t play well at the same time. Toronto dominated Games 1 and 5, while Philadelphia controlled Games 3 and 6. Game 2 was ugly and close, while Game 4 — easily the best of the series — was a magnificent contest. Both teams won twice and lost once at home to create a 3-3 series heading into Sunday. When the smoke cleared, the Raptors prevailed, bringing the NBA Playoffs’ second round to an end.

The Eastern Conference portion of the 2019 NBA Playoffs was considered by most pundits to be the more compelling part of this journey to the Larry O’Brien Trophy. The Golden State Warriors still have the West on lockdown and will be heavy favorites to beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference Finals. The East — no longer populated by LeBron James after his move to the Los Angeles Lakers — was a land of mystery this season. As the clear-cut top four teams in the East — the Raptors and Sixers plus the Bucks and the Boston Celtics — prepared to meet in the second round, the NBA community eagerly anticipated these clashes, which were likely to occur for many months.

The Bucks-Celtics series fizzled because the Celtics played terribly. In this series, the Raptors and Sixers had their share of shining moments, but as mentioned above, they usually didn’t play well in the same games, Game 4 being the exception.

The Raptors entered this series carrying the burden of not knowing where Kawhi Leonard will play next season. This season has consistently been viewed as a defining moment for Canada’s only active NBA franchise.

The Sixers, though young, felt immense pressure in this series because of major investments by the organization. Bringing aboard Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons represented a win-now posture from the Sixers organization. Toronto’s urgency in this series was matched by Philadelphia’s, making this Game 7 denouement a seismic event for both franchises.

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals is Wednesday night in Milwaukee at 8:30 p.m. Eastern.