For the second time this postseason, the Toronto Raptors missed an opportunity to close out an opponent on the road, losing Game 6 to the Miami Heat on Friday night. And so, for the second time this postseason, they'll host a Game 7 at Air Canada Centre.
All-Star backcourt mates Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who finally appear to have found their respective shooting touches after woeful starts to the playoffs, aren't sweating the do-or-die contest the way many Raptors fans likely are. They're looking forward to the challenge.
"We played all year to get 56 wins, to become the two-seed in the East, and to get home-court in this type of situation," Lowry said after Friday's loss. "This is gonna be fun. It's Game 7, two versus three, get an opportunity to play on one of the biggest stages there is. It's gonna be fun. Game 7 in the first round was a little bit more tight, but this one Sunday will be just, go out there and hoop."
DeRozan, meanwhile, was quick to downplay the pair's ostensible offensive resurgence. They combined for 59 points in each of the last two games, but it didn't change the outcome in Game 6, when the Raptors' bench and team defense fell off dramatically.
"It means nothing (when) we lose," said DeRozan, who also cited Miami's constant switching as a deterrent to swinging the ball. "We all gotta be one on (the) court. Whether we score 10 points each and everybody else does something collectively, that's all that matters. As a whole, we all gotta be aggressive, and that's gonna be the turning point for us."
Defensively, the Raptors had no answer for Heat point guard Goran Dragic, who made their guards pay for both playing up on him (usually blowing by his defender on the way to the hoop) and giving him daylight (draining pull-up jumpers from all over the floor).
"The way he played tonight is the style he's accustomed to," said Lowry, Dragic's former teammate. He plays downhill, and getting to the basket and being shifty. It's a different team (when he plays that way). You always gotta account for him trying to drive the ball."
The result was that the Heat scored 103 points in Game 6, more than either team has managed in any game in the series, despite three games having gone to overtime. DeRozan suggested the Raptors need to do a better job staying in front of their assignments, rather than relying on help.
"It was just 1-on-1 defense," he said. "We just gotta buckle down, not try to rely on help so much. Every individual on our side's just gotta man up and play 1-on-1 defense, so we don't have to get into rotations, worrying about guys getting to the basket getting easy shots."