The Toronto Raptors are headed to their first Eastern Conference Finals in franchise history as they knocked out the Miami Heat in game 7 that took place this afternoon in Toronto. It is the first time the NBA will see their team from the country north of the U.S. be one of the teams representing the league in the conference finals, which is huge for the sport and for Canada as a sports fan base as well. The duo of Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan was the difference in the series-clinching game on Sunday as the two all stars combined for 63 of the teams 116 points, and were matchup nightmares for the Heat guards in all seven games.
Both squads were under-manned throughout the series, each without their starting big man; Jonas Valanciunas out for the Raptors and Hassan Whiteside sidelined for the Heat, however it was the Heat that seemed like they suffered the bigger loss when they had to play small ball the last two games of the series as they started their 6’5 rookie Justise Winslow at “Center”. It became painfully obvious in the rebounding and hustle points categories that the Heat were desperately missing their 7’0 Whiteside in the middle of the paint to protect the rim, and causing disruptions for the Raptors offense. Dwyane Wade continued to show fans that even though he continues to become older in age, his game is still well in its prime. Wade averaged 21.6 points per game in the series and had a multitude of shots that had us saying that that was “vintage Wade”. Goran Dragic was probably Miami’s second most valuable player in the series as he did his best job to compete with Kyle Lowry with game management and playmaking too. In Game 6, he had a playoff career high 30 points and led the Heat to force the game 7. For Heat fans it's a shame to think of what could have been. They forced a game 7 in the conference semifinals playing without their starting center, and power forward (Chris Bosh who has been out for most of the season). Thinking positively though, they have a young core group of guys on the roster that gained valuable experience at the highest level of play so that moving forward next year with a healthy lineup; big things should be expected once again.
Though, this article is not about how close the Heat got, but about how the Raptors won and now advance to play the number 1 seed in the East, the Cavaliers, who are led by the three-headed monster in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. The Cavaliers have yet to lose a game this playoff campaign, and they have been waiting to see who would be their opponent for about a week now after they finished off the Hawks in 4 games.
Do the Raptors have enough to at least make it a competitive series against the Cavs? Or are their just too many weapons in Cleveland for the Raptors to worry about?
I became somewhat of a believer in the Raptors after watching them take care of business in game 7 against the Heat. The duo of Lowry and Derozan that could be argued as one of the top 1-2 punches that the Association has, really have stepped up all playoffs. They are also getting a lot of help from some names that a lot of people didn’t expect anything out of like Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo.
They won’t score 120 points night in and night out, but they defend well, and so far, score when they need buckets. That being said, they are going up against King James and his band of brothers who in their first two series of this playoff campaign look like they are meshing more than they have ever before since all arriving in Cleveland together. With how deep the talent goes on the roster, and with how consistent the three point shot has been for the stars for the Cavs, all to go along with LeBron’s ability to drive on and score at will on anybody defending him, I don’t think the Raptors will have the answers to stop the train that is rolling in Cleveland. However, early on in the Raptors vs. Heat series, I told myself it didn’t matter who the Cavs played it would be a sweep either way, I can come back off that statement. I think the level of play that is being displayed by the Raptors right now could win them a game, and with how hyped the Canada-faithful will be to root for their NBA team in their first ECF ever, they might (MIGHT) be able to squeeze another one out. But again, if I had to put my money where my mouth is, I see the Cavs winning the Eastern Conference Finals over the Raptors in 5 games.