TORONTO – After a decade and a half of playoff disappointment, the Toronto Raptors finally got to enjoy a celebratory night of hugs, kisses and happy families.
Next up, a second-round date with the Miami Heat.
Toronto advanced with a Game 7 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Sunday night. DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points, Jonas Valanciunas had 15 rebounds and 10 points and the Raptors beat the Pacers 89-84.
The Raptors will host the Heat in Game 1 of the second round Tuesday night.
"It's going to be another hard-fought series," DeRozan said. "We don't expect anything less."
Coach Dwane Casey expects a big challenge trying to contain Miami star Dwyane Wade.
"We've kind of been watching them out of one side of our eye," Casey said. "(Wade) is back to being a young guy."
By beating Indiana, the Raptors won their first postseason series since a five-game triumph over the New York Knicks in 2001, ending the NBA's longest active drought between playoff series victories. Toronto had lost in the first round in the previous two seasons, including a Game 7 loss to Brooklyn in 2014 and a sweep to Washington last year.
"We got the monkey off our back, more than anything, from these past couple of of years," DeRozan said. "It just feels good to get that off."
Delighted with the outcome, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri strode on stage while Casey was giving his postgame press conference and planted a kiss on Casey's head. A bemused Casey thanked his boss as Ujiri walked off applauding.
Later, Lowry and DeRozan each brought their young children up to the podium. DeRozan's two-year-old daughter, Diar, got the last word, and some laughs, by wishing 'Good night' to the assembled media.
For once, it's not good night for Toronto at the end of the first round.
Here are some other takeaways from Toronto's Game 7 win over the Pacers:
Toronto had averaged nearly 19 turnovers in their three losses in the series, leading to a combined 70 points for the Pacers. Casey's message to control the ball was received in Game 7, with Toronto making nine turnovers compared to Indiana's 18.
RAVE REVIEWS FOR ROOKIE
Raptors rookie Norman Powell, a second-round pick last summer, scored 13 points in Game 7. Powell made three of four 3-pointers and won the respect of Indiana's Paul George for his defensive efforts. George pulled Powell aside after the game to congratulate him on his performance.
STUMBLING ACROSS THE FINISH LINE
Toronto won Game 7 despite scoring just 11 points in the fourth quarter, the lowest total by any Game 7 winner in the shot-clock era. "We stunk it up in the fourth quarter," Casey said. "It wasn't pretty, believe me, but our defense carried us down the stretch."
Toronto took three of four meetings with Miami this season, winning the final three after a 96-76 road loss on Nov. 8. The Raptors needed overtime to beat Miami 112-104 in Toronto on March 12.
HIGH PRAISE FOR PG
Indiana's George averaged 27.3 points per game in the series, prompting Casey to say the Pacers' All-Star guard reminded him of a recently retired Lakers star Kobe Bryant. "Unbelievable," Casey said. "This young man reminds of trying to prepare for a young Kobe Bryant back in the Laker days when I was in Seattle."