TORONTO — As the Toronto Raptors assembled their lead in the third quarter, Air Canada Centre began to fill with an unmistakable sense that this team was not merely overpowering the Miami Heat. No, the Raptors were also escaping their past. All the first-round exits. All the blown chances. All the disappointments.
On Sunday afternoon, the Raptors turned the most significant basketball game in franchise history into a citywide celebration, defeating the Heat, 116-89, in Game 7 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinals. Kyle Lowry scored 35 points with a sore elbow, and DeMar DeRozan added 28 with a sprained thumb.
“I know one thing,” Coach Dwane Casey said. “Our guys compete.”
Nothing about this game was easy for the Raptors — not against the likes of Dwyane Wade, not after seven games, not with so many banged-up bodies. But for the first time in the team’s 21-season existence, the…