TORONTO -- After he was humbled in Game 1 of this series, Kyle Lowry took extra shots until 1:15 a.m.
It sure worked, didn’t it?
Lowry carried the Toronto Raptors to their first trip to the Eastern Conference finals on Sunday afternoon in front of a raucous crowd at Air Canada Centre, scoring 35 points, dishing out nine assists and grabbing seven rebounds in Toronto’s 116-89 blowout victory over the Miami Heat in Game 7.
It was a continuation of Lowry's overcoming shooting struggles both mental and physical. He had rebounded from the disappointing opener, in which he was held to seven points, to score 33 in Game 3, 25 in Game 5 and a postseason career-high 36 in Game 6.
Yes, he’s back.
Sorry, LeBron James, no rematch with your old team this time.
After winning a franchise-record 56 games during the regular season, the Raptors finally got out of the first round for the first time in nearly 15 years despite being taken to Game 7 by the Indiana Pacers. Now, they’ll be heavy underdogs against the Cleveland Cavaliers’ big three.
Whatever. They’re used to it.
Plus, their 2015-16 season is already a resounding success. Time to play freely with the house money that Lowry, franchise lifer DeMar DeRozan (28 points), GM Masai Ujiri and seemingly always embattled coach Dwane Casey have rightly earned.
Toronto crushed smaller Miami on the glass, 50-30.
The big question now: Will Jonas Valanciunas (sprained right ankle) be ready for the start of the conference finals?
The Heat, who took the Raptors to the limit despite being without Chris Bosh (medical condition) and Hassan Whiteside (MCL sprain), head into the summer with plenty of uncertainty. The whole team is basically headed into free agency, while the key will be trying to retain Whiteside, figuring out Bosh’s long-term health and retaining Wade and the rest of the core.
Miami president Pat Riley has his work cut out for him.
So do the Raptors.