Toronto advances to the Eastern Conference Finals for first time in franchise history.
Kyle Lowry was brilliant in the 116-89 Game 7 win over the Heat on Sunday afternoon, scoring 35 points on 11-of-20 shooting (8-of-11 from the stripe) to go with seven rebounds, nine assists, five triples, four steals and four turnovers through 42 minutes of action. He had really struggled through much of the postseason, but over the past two games when Toronto needed him most, Lowry produced averages of 35.5 points, 5.5 boards, 6.0 assists, 2.0 steals, 4.0 treys, and 3.0 turnovers per contest while shooting 48.9 percent from the field and draining a ridiculous 66.7 percent of his 3-point attempts. He became the first player in franchise history to score 35-plus points in back-to-back playoff games, and he took over during the second-half, scoring 19 of his 35 points while posting a usage rate of 31.7.
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Lowry is heating up at the right time, and with a much more favorable matchup against the Cavs awaiting him in the Eastern Conference Finals, he could prove to be a problem for Cleveland. Through three regular season games against the Cavs, Lowry registered averages of 31.0 points, 4.0 boards, 8.3 assists, 3.3 steals, 2.3 triples and just 0.7 turnovers per game on 66.0 percent shooting. He’s obviously not going to shoot anywhere near 66.0 percent from the field in the Toronto-Cleveland best of seven series, but he should have an easier time scoring with Kyrie Irving in front of him. Here's a look at his shot chart from that three-game span:
As for Lowry’s All-Star counterpart, DeMar DeRozan continued to struggle with efficiency, jacking up 29 shots and connecting on just 12 of them as he scored 28 points with eight rebounds, one assist and three turnovers in 35 minutes. It’s always the same story with DeRozan, he puts points on the board, but his tendency to settle for tough, contested mid-range jumpers hinders his ability to consistently have efficient outings. Things are only going to get tougher for him in the Eastern Conference Finals with an extremely difficult matchup against LeBron James, and with Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) hurting, I’d honestly be surprised if Toronto could win more than two games in the upcoming series. Through three regular-season games against the Cavs, DeRozan shot just 38.1 percent from the field to go with averages of 15.0 points, 3.7 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.0 steal and 2.0 turnovers a night. Here’s a look at his shot chart from that three game span:
It's not going to be pretty for the impending free agent in Round 3.
DeMarre Carroll (wrist, ankle) and Bismack Biyombo were also key contributors in the win, with Carroll going 4-of-5 from the field and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe (103.6 true shooting percentage) on his way to 14 points, five boards, two triples and two assists; and Biyombo registering a double-double with 17 points, 16 boards, one assist and two swats over 41 minutes. Dwane Casey would not offer an update on Jonas Valanciunas after the game, saying, “He’s still limping around, but he’s doing therapy 24-7, so, we’ll see.” This quote comes just one day after Casey said that JV was “nowhere close to being ready,” so it sounds like he’ll more than likely spend Tuesday’s Game 1 against the Cavs on the sidelines. That means Biyombo should continue to get all the run he can handle as Toronto’s starting five, and he remains a very attractive DFS target.
Miami takes first Game 7 loss since 2009
Out of all the Miami players during the Game 7 loss, I was probably most impressed with what I saw from Justise Winslow, who produced 14 points, eight boards, two triples, two steals, two swats and two turnovers through 36 minutes of action. He gave it everything he had every second he was on the court, and despite being severely undersized at just 6’7” he spent stretches acting as a makeshift center on offense and then he would often pick up Kyle Lowry on the defensive end. That kind of versatility can lead to a very long and successful career, and it’ll be interesting to see what the Miami roster looks like next season. Hassan Whiteside, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Gerald Green, Tyler Johnson, Amare Stoudemire and Luol Deng are all bound for free agency, so there could potentially be a lot of playing time opening up for Winslow next year. He still has a ton of work to do in order to become a consistent player on the offensive end, but his defense should earn him steady minutes during his sophomore season. Yes, there are a few things that need to happen for Winslow to have the opportunity to establish himself as a standard league asset, but he has my attention, and I’ll be monitoring him closely this offseason.
As for the impending Miami free agents, I’d be surprised if Dwyane Wade bolted, but I’m not so certain about any of the other guys remaining in Miami. Unless Wade gives Miami a ridiculous discount, Hassan Whiteside is assuredly gone, as he’ll most certainly secure a handful of max-deal offers as an unrestricted free agent. Out of all the potential landing spots for Whiteside, I’d peg the Lakers, Celtics, Magic and maybe even the Hornets as the most likely clubs to land his. Whiteside was an absolute beast this season, cranking out top-4 value in 9-cat leagues after the All-Star break with averages of 17.5 points, 13.3 boards, an elite 3.4 swats and just 1.7 turnovers per contest while shooting 59.0 percent from the field and 75.0 percent from the charity stripe. His knee does not concern me at all, and I’ll be aggressively targeting Whiteside in the first round of next year’s drafts; regardless of the jersey he’s wearing.