Toronto Raptors

NBA Playoffs 2019: Comparing Kawhi Leonard's game-winner to Vince Carter's miss vs. Philadelphia 76ers in 2001

Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler [NBA Getty Images]

To set the stage, the year was 2001.

The Toronto Raptors had reached the playoffs for the second consecutive season, just their second time in the young franchise's history.

A year after being swept by the New York Knicks in their first ever playoff series, Toronto got their revenge in a close, grind-it-out Game 5 series-clinching win over the same team that eliminated them the year prior to advance to the Conference Semifinals.

Awaiting them in the next round, the Philadelphia 76ers and league MVP Allen Iverson.

Each team took one game on the road to even the series at 2-2. Philadelphia took Game 5 at home but the Raptors, led by a 39-point game from Vince Carter, defended home court in Game 6 to force a Game 7 in Philly.

Fast forward 18 years later.

The Raptors had their best season in franchise history but an early exit in the playoffs caused some serious turnover. They fired their head coach, Dwane Casey, who had just won Coach of the Year and traded their franchise player, DeMar DeRozan, for a star who played just nine games the season before and had a player option at the end of the season, giving him free reign to go wherever he chooses should he not enjoy his time in Toronto.

They marched past the Orlando Magic in the first round, paving the way to take on the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals - their first playoff series against each other since 2001.

The Raptors took Game 1 but dropped the next two in an ugly fashion. They evened the series at 2-2 and defended home court in Game 5 to put them one game away from their second Conference Finals appearance in franchise history.

Just like 2001 but in reversed roles, the 76ers took care of business in Game 6 at home to force a Game 7 on the road, back to Toronto.

In 2001, the 76ers led 88-87 with 5.5 seconds to go. They had two opportunities to take a three-point lead on mid-range jumpers from Iverson and Eric Snow but the Raptors corralled the rebound and took a timeout to set up a game-winning play. After the Sixers used their foul-to-give, the Raptors took another timeout with 2.0 seconds on the clock and one shot to win the game.

In 2019, the Raptors led 89-88 with 10.0 seconds to go. Kawhi Leonard went 1-for-2 from the free throw line and Jimmy Butler took advantage of the miss, getting a layup to tie the game at 90 with 4.0 seconds remaining. Toronto took a timeout with one shot to win the game.

In 2001, the ball was inbounded to Carter in front of the Raptors' bench. He pulled up a contested long-two that clanked off the rim, giving the home team the Game 7 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2019, the ball was inbounded to Leonard in front of the Raptors' bench. He pulled up a contested long-two that clanked off the rim, but the soft 'shooter's touch' gave it three more bounces off the rim before it dropped in, giving the home team the Game 7 win to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

(H/T Reddit u/Varnagel_1)

18 years later, the Raptors' fans get to celebrate a nearly-identical moment that crushed them in the past. 18 years later, 76ers fans mourn a nearly-identical moment that they celebrated in the past.

And to add to the similarities, in both 2001 and 2019, the Milwaukee Bucks awaited the winner in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The good news for Raptors fans? The 76ers went on to defeat the Bucks in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals.

Iverson and the Sixers lost in The Finals in five games to the defending champion-Los Angeles Lakers. Should the Raptors advance, they could face off against the defending champion-Golden State Warriors.

Though they would hope for a different final outcome, the parallels between two of the biggest moments in Raptors franchise history is uncanny.

One bounce crushing the team's hopes, while the other bounce(s) building up momentum for a potential push to their first ever NBA Finals appearance.

Regardless of the result, these are two moments Raptors and 76ers fans will share forever.

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