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Playoffs 2019

NBA Playoffs 2019: Ben Simmons optimistic about 76ers future despite Game 7 heartbreak: 'We can compete with the best'

#Simmons
(NBA TV)

The Philadelphia 76ers were on the wrong end of a heartbreaker in Game 7 as Kawhi Leonard knocked down the buzzer-beating jumper to send the Toronto Raptors into the Conference Finals.

4 TAKEAWAYS: Kawhi scores 41 points as Raptors win Game 7 thriller

Leonard's game-high 41 points capped off a remarkable second-round series against the Philadelphia 76ers, averaging 34.7 points and 9.9 rebounds, shooting 53% from the field and saving his best for last with the biggest shot in Raptors franchise history.

"He took a tough shot, he's an incredible player and he made it," 76ers point guard Ben Simmons said post-game.

"Jo [Joel Embiid] obviously got out there and was able to put a hand up but I mean, he's a great player, he made a great shot. I've got a lot of respect for the Raptors, just the way they played, they kept grinding it out, made it tough on us, but I'm also proud of my guys, we stayed there, it was a fight.

"Obviously I had a tough matchup with Kawhi, but I love taking that challenge. Once coach gave me that challenge, I was looking forward to it. For me, I just try to continue to get better. Try and work hard every game, every situation I'm in and just try and make the right play."

Simmons, who had the tough task of guarding Leonard for the majority of the series gave plenty of credit to the Raptors, but is confident his squad will be right back here next season as they try to go one better after consecutive second-round exits.

OFF-SEASON OUTLOOK: What's next for the Philadelphia 76ers?

"We can compete with the best," Simmons added when asked what the team proved to themselves in the series. "Obviously, we didn't have enough tonight, but I'm proud of my guys, we showed fight the whole game, never let up and I'm really proud of my guys for doing that and staying with it.

"We haven't been together for a while with this group but there's a lot of potential with the guys we brought over - Jimmy [Butler], Tobias [Harris], everybody, Boban [Marjanovic], Mike [Scott], James [Ennis III], just everybody that we have now we grew a lot in the last few months of being together, so I'm proud of my guys."

The 76ers now face an interesting off-season, with three members of the starting five entering free agency, with Butler, Harris and JJ Redick expected to command plenty of attention from teams around the league.

Ownership has previously indicated they want to bring everybody back for another run at the title and after the way things ended in Toronto, Philly's 2019/20 season will have an air of unfinished business about it.

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