(The Sports Xchange) – Led by 35 points from Kyle Lowry and 28 from fellow guard DeMar DeRozan, the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 116-89 at home yesterday in the seventh and deciding game of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The victory puts the Raptors in the Eastern Conference final for the first time in franchise history, against the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.
The series starts on Tuesday in Cleveland.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees it as “as another step” for his team but says they are not going to rest on any laurels.
“For this program from where we started to where we are now, it’s very important,” Casey said.
“I think we’ve done everything we set out to do, but again, we’re not done yet.”
The ultimate goal is an NBA championship.
“I’m not saying we can do that,” Casey said. “But I think this group is hungry and never say never. I know one thing, our guys will compete.”
Added DeRozan: “We’re so focused on getting ready for our next challenge.
“Once you get into the postseason you learn nothing is going to be easy. It gets tougher every single game.”
Guards Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 16 points each.
“They were the better team for the majority of the game,” Wade said.
“With what we had we fought tooth and nail to get to that goal of the Eastern Conference final and fell one game short. We exhausted all possibilities. We did everything we possibly could to
Added Miami forward Luol Deng: “Obviously this is why you play the season, you play to have home court.
“Even though we took one here, they came back and took one (in Miami). But when it comes down to Game 7, it is very difficult to win on the road.”
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra was magnanimous in defeat and tipped his hat to Toronto.
“You have to respect an organization that has gone through some pain in the playoffs and then to be able to overcome that,” he said.
“It was a heck of a series to be involved with. It’s unfortunate that people thought that this was maybe not the most elegant series but it was one of the more competitive ones.”