The Toronto Raptors turned it on in the second half on Sunday and won Game 7 of their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series with the Miami Heat, 116-89. Toronto dominated the boards, protected the ball and aggressively took it to the beleaguered Heat in winning their first conference title.
Toronto’s star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan struggled throughout most of the playoffs, but not Sunday. Lowry put up 35 points, seven rebounds and nine assists while DeRozan posted 28 points and eight rebounds. Toronto made only nine turnovers all day.
After the Heat’s small lineup stayed even in the rebounding department in Game 6, the Raptors’ ensured there would be no repeat performance. Toronto outrebounded Miami 50-30.
Aside from the guards rebounding so well, center Bismack Biyombo hauled in 16 rebounds of his own in addition to scoring 17 points. When both teams lost their big men to injury early in the series, Toronto had a bigger weapon in Biyombo to call from the bench.
The Raptors led at the end of the first quarter, 25-24. When Lowry drilled a three-pointer with 1:16 left in the half, Toronto had their biggest lead at 49-42. The led at halftime, 53-47.
With the score 62-56, the Raptors went on a 15-4 run, capped by DeRozan’s 20-footer to put significant distance between themselves and Miami. Miami tried to hang in, closing to within 84-78 late in the third period. Toronto led 86-78 heading into the fourth quarter.
Toronto dashed Miami hopes when they started the fourth quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 97-80 advantage. Another Lowry three-pointer with 3:24 left pushed the margin to 111-86.
Nearly 20,000 in the Air Canada Centre, and many thousands outside in “Jurassic Park,” began to celebrate.
“It’s great to hear the home crowd,” said DeRozan. “This organization deserves it, this country deserves it to see them get to the next step, somewhere they haven’t been. But we’re not done yet.”
The Raptors won a Game 7 at home for the second time in the playoffs. Miami had won their last three series after falling behind 3-2, but it was not to be in 2016.
“We fought tooth and nail to try to get to that goal of getting to the Eastern Conference Finals,” said Wade. “We came up obviously one game short of that.”
Despite balanced scoring with six players in double figures, it was far from enough. Guards Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic led the Heat with 16 points.
The Raptors move on to play LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday.