The Toronto Raptors erased a double-digit deficit late in their Game 7 match this afternoon against the Brooklyn Nets, but couldn't quite get over the hump. A Kyle Lowry drive into traffic with about six seconds left resulted in a blocked shot, and the Brooklyn Nets walk away with a 104 to 103 win, and move on in the playoffs to face the Miami Heat.
The Toronto Raptors and their Cinderella season are over.
It's a tough way to go considering the Raps for the millionth time, fought back in improbable fashion, and nearly stole a game that frankly, they had no business winning.
The Raps started strong, scoring 28 first quarter points thanks to Amir Johnson playing out of his mind. Johnson appeared to re-injure his wonky ankle on a play early in the Q, but then got up, and proceeded to roll off six straight points, powering the Raptors ahead.
That was key because the Dinos' two main studs, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, struggled early. DeRozan seemed tentative, while Lowry just couldn't hit a shot, starting 0 of 5 from the field.
But Johnson and then Patrick Patterson kept the Dinos in it for the bulk of the first half as others like Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross continued to struggle. Unfortunately, the Nets offence got rolling around the bench play of Marcus Thornton, and Brooklyn dropped 35 points on Toronto in the second quarter to take a 61 to 53 lead at the half.
The third quarter didn't start off much better. Joe Johnson continued to cause problems, Jonas Valanciunas continued to play like he was in a major haze, and while the clubs netted out at 20 points a piece in the session, you just got the feeling that Toronto had no answers to anything Brooklyn did.
But then something happened as the fourth quarter started to wind down.
The 2014 Toronto Raptors happened.
As the Raptors have done all season, they somehow crawled back, putting together a 19 to 9 run closing the gap to only one point with 7 seconds left. And with the Nets looking to get back to the free-throw line to ice things once and for all, Terrence Ross used his length and athleticism to steal a Shaun Livingston inbounds pass and knock it off the Nets to give Toronto the ball back.
And into Kyle Lowry's hands for a chance to win the game, and the series.
But it was not meant to be.
Lowry's initial drive was swarmed by the Nets' defenders, forcing him to fumble with it and launch a tough, contested bank-shot in the paint, which was blocked by Paul Pierce.
Nets move on.
It was a tough way to go out no doubt, but it's hard to think of this as the end for Toronto. The club will do everything in its power to retain team MVP Kyle Lowry, and has a nice core of youngsters to continue building around. As I noted in my gameday preview, the expectations for this club going into the season were quite low, and Toronto smashed through them, letting the NBA know that basketball in Toronto is back.
This game ends in a loss for Toronto, but it's hard not to think of the Raptors' season being anything but a giant win, something we'll be discussing more on the site in the coming days.