During the most challenging moments of this year’s playoffs, with the Toronto Raptors’ hopes continually hanging in the balance, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan never wavered in their support for each other.
They had each other’s backs and the shots would fall, they insisted. We’re going to ride or die with Kyle and DeMar, their head coach declared.
Now that the Raptors have eliminated the Miami Heat and are riding into the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, their two all-stars are again singing the same tune: we’ve learned a lot and there’s more to come.
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NOT DONE YET
“We ain’t satisfied,” Lowry said, after scoring a game-high 35 points in game seven to go with nine assists and seven rebounds.
“That’s just our mentality. We’ve kept everything internal but our goal is to play as long as possible. Yes, everyone’s excited but we want to get four more wins and get to the Finals.
“We know we’ve got a tough task at hand, but it’s still basketball. They got to lace them up and we’ve got to lace them up and go at it.”
“Once you get into the post-season, it’s about learning,” added DeRozan, who scored 28 points on 12-for-29 shooting. “Nothing is going to be easy. Everybody’s fighting for one goal. It gets tougher every game.”
Now LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers (8-0 in the 2016 playoffs) await.
There were times during the Raptors’ first round series against the Indiana Pacers where neither Toronto all-star could find a rhythm offensively. Lowry and DeRozan both shot a measly 32% from the field in that series (and just over 16% from three-point range).
But whether it was late night shooting practice together at the Raptors facility, difficult media sessions or pre-game pep talks, Lowry and DeRozan stood together through it all. Though the early moments of the second round followed a similar patter, Lowry regained his mojo in game three and both players stepped up in the final three games.
And Toronto head coach Dwane Casey joined his backcourt duo in stressing that the Raptors will not be sitting back after reaching the conference finals.
“We’re not done yet,” he said. “Both Kyle and DeMar stepped up at the right time, in the right game, at the right place. Both men stepped up to the moment.”
The Raptors have never come this far in the playoffs and they are about to come face-to-face with a red-hot Cleveland team that has blown away the opposition thus far.
On paper, the match-up has a lopsided look to it, especially with Jonas Valanciunas still sidelined. But you just never know – after all, Lowry and DeRozan have got Toronto believing again.