As the final buzzer sounded and the Brooklyn Nets celebrated a 104-103 Game 7 victory and series win, DeMar DeRozan immediately went to Kyle Lowry, still lying on the floor after missing what would have been the game-winning shot. The Toronto Raptors point guard had the ball with 6.2 seconds remaining to extend their season.
While Nets head coach Jason Kidd ran to hug Deron Williams and former Raptor Alan Anderson raised both arms above his head, Lowry covered his face with his hands and did not move. DeRozan immediately dropped to the floor beside him and comforted the teammate that has become as close as a brother.
“I just told him, ‘Don’t worry about it,’ DeRozan said. “I can sleep at night knowing he took that shot. I can live with it, Kyle taking that shot. ‘Don’t be down on yourself,’ that’s all I was telling him. Just being there to support him. I told him without him we wouldn’t even be in this situation.”
With the crowd on its feet to cheer their team off the court one last time this season, the two made the slow walk over to their bench, through the the tunnel and into the locker room.
When Lowry addressed the media from the press conference podium, he had his son, Karter, beside him. The youngest Lowry was more concerned with getting a drink of water than his father’s frustrating afternoon. Still, there were two things that made Lowry smile during his press conference: his son’s presence, and relaying DeRozan’s words of comfort after the game.
“That’s my man,” Lowry said. “He was just giving me words of encouragement and telling me, honestly, he said, ‘If anybody’s going to take that shot, I’m living and dying with you taking that shot, or trying to attempt to get that shot off.’ And it was just one of those things where it was a great brotherly moment.”
If we’re being honest, the Raptors weren’t supposed to be there. Not in the postseason, in a seven-game series against a much more experienced and savvy Nets team nor in a position to steal Game 7. Toronto has dominated fourth quarters all year and Sunday wasn’t any different. Despite Amir Johnson fouling out with more than seven minutes remaining, and most of the starters having a rough night offensively, the Raptors pushed the Nets to the brink of a first-round exit and damn near pulled off one of the wildest postseason elimination game comebacks we’ve ever seen.
“Our toughness, our ability to fight through criticism and all the naysayers allow us to put ourselves in the position to win the game no matter what the deficit is,” Patterson said. “No matter what’s going on, no matter who’s hurt, who’s injured, who’s sick, we always put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
A bobble of the ball while Lowry was driving to the hoop caused Patterson to step toward him in hopes of corralling it. Lowry regained control of the ball, but after Patterson stepped in to help him save possession, Pierce was able to get just close enough to Lowry to block the shot attempt as time expired.
If not for the ball being poked away, perhaps the Raptors would be flying to Miami Sunday night instead of meeting at the ACC on Monday morning to clean out their lockers and have exit interviews. The fumble happened, though. As did the block by Pierce to seal his team’s ticket to the second round.
While DeRozan was the first person to find Lowry and tell him that he was the man they wanted to take that shot, the rest of his teammates felt the same way.
“Sure,” Johnson said. “For sure. He’s been hitting big shots all year…just came up short.”
It was a finish as close as it could possibly be, fitting with the way the series between these two teams has gone. Through 11 games, regular season and postseason combined, each team scored 1070 points.
Although the basketball world is now aware of this relentlessly resilient Raptors team, what bonded them together after a mid-season trade was how everyone continued to count them out.
“We’re all we have,” Patterson said. “The country, the city, the fans, everyone in the organization and this team and our families are the people who believed in us. All year long, you have the doubters and the naysayers, the people criticizing us, the people saying we can’t do this, we can’t do that.”
Before Casey let his team leave the locker room, he delivered instructions for their offseason. Still unsure of what’s to come for his own coaching status, Casey reminded his team about the importance of attention to detail.
“I told them every hot night in the gym they have this summer, think about every opportunity they had a chance to do something right,” Casey said. “Whether it was make a layup, make a free throw, have the proper spacing, the mental things that you learn as you go through a series like this.
“This playoff run is nothing but positives for these young men.”
Despite their season ending sooner than they had hoped, this Raptors squad knows it has exceeded all expectations and is in a good place moving forward. While there will be decisions for free agents and front office personnel to make over the offseason, the feel-good sentiment of this year isn’t about to fade anytime soon.
“There are a lot of things that could have been done differently, but this season has been a great season,” Lowry said. “My teammates, I’ve had the best core group of teammates I’ve ever had in my life and career. I’m mad and frustrated, but at the same time understanding this is only a stepping stone for my growth.”