On eve of a potential history-making Game 7, Casey's message was: have fun | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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On eve of a potential history-making Game 7, Casey's message was: have fun

May 14, 2016 - 3:39 PM

TORONTO - The Toronto Raptors are 48 minutes from rewriting their history.

A victory over Miami in Sunday's do-or-die Game 7 will put the Raptors into the NBA's Eastern Conference final for the first time in the team's 21 years.

And on the eve of the high-stakes game, Dwane Casey's message to his team was: enjoy the moment.

"Games 7s are fun," said Casey. "I tell our guys that these are the games you work all summer for. You prepare your body, you prepare your mind, you get through the regular season, you won 56 games, you earned the right to have Game 7 on your home court. Let's go out and play basketball and have fun competing.

"There should be nothing else hanging over your head. There's no pressure except just going out and competing against the Miami Heat."

The Heat forced a Game 7 with a 103-91 victory in Miami on Friday night.

The Raptors also needed seven games to dispatch the Indiana Pacers in the opening round. The big difference in that series was the pressure hung thick over the team. The Raptors hadn't advanced to the second round in 15 years. The players were tight, Casey said, weighed down by the team's history and expectations.

"But I don't sense that in this round," said Casey, who's coached in too many elimination games to count — he attempted during a conference call Saturday. "There's a sense of understanding the moment. I think this Game 7 will be different than the last Game 7. I think our guys understand that. Going through the Indiana series helped them tremendously as far as getting through that."

On the eve of Game 7 against Indy, Kyle Lowry said that series finale would be "like the Super Bowl. Win or go home. Survive or don't survive."

Looking back, he agreed with Casey. The team was tight.

"This one Sunday will be 'Just go out there and hoop,'" said Lowry.

The matchup marks the third Game 7 in three seasons for Toronto, who lost a heartbreaker to Brooklyn in the opening round in 2014, on a blocked Lowry shot at the buzzer.

"Our backs will be against the wall," Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll said. "It's Game 7 on our home court with our home crowd. What better place do you want to be?"

A well-rested Cleveland team awaits the winner. The Cavaliers, who swept both Detroit and Atlanta in their first two series, host Game 1 on Tuesday night after a nine-day break.

The Raptors, on the other hand, will play their eighth game in a 15-day stretch of gruelling back-and-forth travel and several key injuries.

DeMar DeRozan's sprained thumb requires wrapping from sports science guru Alex McKechnie and his now-famous red shoelace during timeouts, to help keep the swelling down. Jonas Valanciunas is out with a badly sprained ankle. Carroll is playing with a wrist injury.

The good news is DeRozan and Lowry have rediscovered their all-star form. They're averaging a combined 42.7 points in the series. Lowry scored a game-high 36 points in Friday's loss, while DeRozan had 23.

But Casey hopes that someone else steps up and produces a career night on what would be the biggest victory in franchise history.

"There's always going to be opportunities for guys to step up and have big nights," Casey said. "And that's what you kind of need to get through a Game 7 is someone who Miami probably hasn't prepared for, someone to step out of the box and do something spectacular.

"That's kind of what you hope for, to get that boost (from someone) other than Kyle and DeMar."

Casey credited the raucous Air Canada Centre crowd for pulling his dog-tired players through Game 7 against Indiana. He hopes for more of the same Sunday.

"It's going to be huge," Casey said. "There's nothing like having your fans behind you in a Game 7, when things kind of get down, they push you through, you know that they're cheering for you through thick and thin. We have one of the loudest arenas in the league, to go at the other team and build you up when you get tired, and fatigue sets in."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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