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NBA playoff scores 2016: Kyle Lowry showed up when the Raptors needed him most

Lowry overcame his playoff struggles to lead the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history -- and he's going to have to keep it up if the Raptors are going to stand a chance against the Cavaliers.

Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Kyle Lowry and the Toronto Raptors didn't have history on their side, so he and the Raptors decided to make some of their own on Sunday. Lowry had the best playoff performance of his career to lead the Raptors to a dominant 116-89 win over the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the second round playoff series and push the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.

Only 12 days after staying on the court to work on his shot for hours after a heartbreaking Game 1 loss, Lowry had 35 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and four steals to lead the Raptors into unknown territories. And if he's going to lead the Raptors even further, he will have to ascend to another level -- the heavily favored Cleveland Cavaliers are rested and ready.

For Lowry, Sunday's performance was a return to his All-Star form -- and it was a glimpse of a team that should challenge the Cavaliers more than the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks were able to in the first two rounds of the playoffs.

To his credit, Lowry has been a different player since his late-night shooting session. "It was just about being out there and having time to just reflect on things, think about the game that I grew up as a kid playing, the game I love," Lowry told reporters the day after. "It's been countless nights where I've done that back in North Philly."

He's averaged 26.2 points per game in the six games since, and his shooting has been light years ahead -- even if it's still not eye-opening -- jumping up from 30.6 percent through the first eight games of the playoffs to 41.9 percent over the last six.

On Sunday, it was more than his shooting. He was 11-for-20 from the field, but, more importantly, Lowry was guiding the the Raptors offense like the point guard he is supposed to be. During the Raptors' 15-4 run in the third that gave them a 17-point lead, Lowry was everywhere. He was sinking threes from the wing and finding Bismack Biyombo -- who had a monster game with 17 points and 16 rebounds -- on beautiful pick-and-rolls.

The Raptors don't run a brilliant offense with precise ball movement and crisp passing, but they can get going when Lowry is firing. The Raptors offense has been dormant for much of the playoffs, but so has Lowry. When he's making the right decision immediately off a screen -- whether it's driving to the hoop or finding DeMarre Carroll for a corner three -- the Raptors are a different type of team.

Will it be enough to hang with the high-powered offense of the Cavaliers? Probably not, but with Lowry performing at an All-Star level again, the Raptors are going to make the Eastern Conference Finals a tough outing for the Cavaliers.

2 other things

It's going to be an interesting summer for the Heat

Dwyane Wade and the Heat were looking forward to facing off against LeBron James, but they shouldn't be too disappointed with how this season worked out following the injury bug that controlled the stretch run and postseason. Losing Chris Bosh for a huge chunk of the regular season and Hassan Whiteside for the final few games of the series with the Raptors was a tough hit. Now, they face a summer of uncertainty. Whiteside is going to be a free agent, Wade signed only a one-year deal last summer and Bosh's health is still up in the air. They're likely to chase after a big-name free agent like they always do -- can they somehow grab a superstar again? The season may be over, but the Heat will be one of the most intriguing teams this offseason.

Injuries or not, the Raptors are ready for the Cavaliers

The fate of Jonas Valanciunas and his sprained right ankle remain up in the air, but the Raptors do have the tools to hang with the Cavaliers. The playoffs are a different beast -- and the Cavaliers are playing at a much higher level than they did in the regular season -- but Toronto did take two of three regular season games against Cleveland this season. If Lowry keeps up his Game 7 play, he can hang with Kyrie Irving. Carroll and Patrick Patterson can bother James, and Biyombo had a breakout series against the Heat. One question does loom large for the Raptors: Can DeMar DeRozan jump out of his funk? He was a dismal 12-for-29 from the field in Game 7 -- that's not going to fly against the Cavaliers.

The problem for Toronto is that until the second half of Game 7, they hadn't gotten going offensively. The Cavaliers have yet to slow offensively. Cleveland should run the Raptors out of the gym -- but the matchups should keep the Raptors in the mix.

Play of the night

Game 7 was a dunk fest for Biyombo -- and Lowry wasn't the only one dishing out perfect passes. Cory Joseph found Biyombo for this slam, and Biyombo almost forgot that he had to play defense. At least he got in his Usain Bolt celebration.

2 fun things

The Spurs celebrated the end of their season by cosplaying. Sure!

A man ran the Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco with a Stephen Curry-inspired basketball hoop on his back. Sure!


Raptors 116, Heat 89 (Raptors HQ recapHot Hot Hoops recap)