Who cares how it happened? Seven games of perpetual uneasiness, two weeks of absent stars, five bouts of rampant indigestion and uncountable existential crises later, the Raptors are moving on to the second round for the first time since Jurassic Park 3 was disappointing audiences in a theater near you.
There's nothing Tea Leoni could do to ruin this dinosaur rampage, though. It never quite felt like a sure thing, even with the Raptors up 14 heading in to the fourth quarter. There always seemed to be that lingering feeling of inevitability: that the Raptors weren't going to simply cruise to a Game 7 win. Those feelings were warranted, of course, because this is Toronto and nothing is ever easy.
Monta Ellis's heart-stopping three-pointer with 2:30 on the clock pulled the Pacers within three, as the Raptors offense descended into a maddening, time-killing plod. On some possessions it seemed like the Raptors forgot there was a basket to shoot on all together. With 26.9 seconds remaining following another stench-ridden offensive trip, the Raptors stood at 9 points scored in the fourth quarter - the same number they held Indiana to in their miraculous, season saving comeback in Game 5. Indiana trailed 85-82, the "here we go again" vibes rampant in a building that had only known playoff failure - save for that one time in 2001.
A defensive stop and the Pacers' bizarre reluctance to foul immediately on the ensuing rebound left the Raptors with just two DeMar DeRozan free throws and six seconds standing in the way of the second playoff series win in team history.
DeRozan raised for the first, ever important free-throw: good. With the swish came the collective exhale of 20,000 fans with through-the-roof blood pressure. Two possession game. Next shot: perfect, unlike so many of the forced DeRozan shots that almost cost the Raptors the series. The Raptors' All-Star shooting guard was hilariously 10-of-32 on the night, while accruing a +5. The final score? 89-84 Raptors.
If you were looking for reasons to feel confident as the Raptors move on to the second round against Miami, you won't find them in the fourth quarter game film. It seems safe to assume Kyle Lowry's jump shot isn't rounding back in to form this year. He went 5-of-14 from the field, 0-of-4 from long range, but thankfully continues to do all of the other things that make Lowry the ball of energy at the core of this team. Toronto was almost overcome by the moment once again, and came within a few possessions of launching the franchise into an off-season in which the theme could have been widespread upheaval. A couple more minutes of the Raptors scared offense down the stretch could have tipped the game in Indiana's favour.
All of that said, if you're looking for a reason why the last two decades of tortured fandom were worth it, you found in those final three seconds, as a Paul George three missed, Bismack Biyombo grabbed the rebound, Lowry heaved the ball across the court and the elation of the crowd took hold.
As much as it seemed like the Raptors didn't want it to happen in the closing minutes, they're on to the second round to take on the seasoned and rolling Miami Heat. After seeing how the soon-to-be combatants performed in their respective Game 7's today, it's easy to think the Raptors don't stand a chance.
"I hope everyone continues to doubt us. I think that's motivation for us," said Dwane Casey.