Raptors Win!!...Raptors Win!!
The Toronto Raptors shook the gorilla off their collective back and Raptors fans across Canada breathed a massive sigh of relief after the Raps downed the Indiana Pacers to clinch the opening-round series 4-3.
Toronto took Game 7 by a score of 89-84 on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre and ended 15 years of playoff frustration as they won their first post-season series - and first ever seven-game series - since beating the NY Knicks in 2001.
Now the Raptors must face the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals (starting Tuesday), a series where they will again have the all-important home court advantage, which was key in beating the Pacers.
Toronto got help from the raucous crowd at the ACC on Sunday as fans were on their feet for most of the game.
Highlights of Game 7
Guard DeMar DeRozan paced the Raptors with 30 points, including two big free throws in the final minute that helped stem a furious Pacers comeback led by Paul George.
George, who scored 26 points, pulled the Pacers to within three points with a couple of free throws and 53 seconds left on the clock. But then DeRozan managed a big steal from the Pacers star and made those ensuing free throws to clinch the game and series.
Toronto Rookie Norman Powell had 13 points, while Patrick Patterson and Kyle Lowry had 11 apiece. Jonas Valanciunas had 10 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
It was a major win for the Raps, who have had trouble in the playoffs, dating back to that 2001 series. Last year, despite being favoured, they were swept by the Washington Wizards in four straight first-round games.
Now you'd expect the team to be less anxious and feeling a bit less pressure after beating Indiana, but eliminating the Heat won't be easy.
The Raptors won the season series 3-1, but certainly aren't as experienced in the playoffs as the Heat, who are led by Dwayne Wade and his three NBA championship rings.
The Heat like to get the ball inside to Goran Dragic for easy baskets. So it'll be interesting to see how Toronto's Jonas Valanciunas matches up against Dragic in the paint.
The series against the Heat will certainly be a tight one and don't be surprised if it goes all the way to Game 7.
Raptors vs Pacers Game 7 Video Recap
Raptors/Heat Eastern Conference Semifinals Schedule
- Game 1: Miami at Toronto, Tuesday May 3, 8 EST
- Game 2: Miami at Toronto, Thursday May 5, 8 p.m. EST
- Game 3: Toronto at Miami, Saturday May 7, 5 p.m. EST
- Game 4: Toronto at Miami, Monday May 9, 8 p.m. EST
- Game 5: Miami at Toronto, May 11, TBD *If necessary
- Game 6: Toronto at Miami, May 13 TBD *If necessary
- Game 7: Miami at Toronto, May 15, TBD *If necessary
Raptors Top-5 Playoff Scoring Leaders (through seven games)
- DeMar DeRozan 17.9 PPG
- Kyle Lowry 13.9 PPG
- Jonas Valanciunas 13.6 PPG
- Cory Joseph 10.7 PPG
- Patrick Patterson 8.7 PPG