The Toronto Raptors have a chance to reach their second Eastern Conference Finals in franchise history if they can defeat the Philadelphia 76ers in Game 7.
In order to come away with a win, they're going to need a stand-out performance from their captain and leader Kyle Lowry.
"Game 7 is what you play for. It's what you work for... We know how hard it's going to be," Lowry told the media after practice ahead of the big game.
And he does know how hard Game 7s can be, Lowry has played in four win-or-go-home games in his career. After losing his first two Game 7s, Lowry has won two in a row now with his last Game 7 win being one of his best individual performances of his 12 years in the NBA.
|Team/Opponent||Playoff Round||Result||Minutes Played||Pts||FG-FGA||3P-3PA||FT-FTA||Ast||Reb||Stl|
|Rockets at Lakers, 2009||Western Conference Semifinals||Loss, 89-70||18||8||2-2||2-2||0-0||3||2||2|
|Raptors vs. Nets, 2014||Eastern Conference First Round||Loss, 104-103||41||28||7-19||2-4||12-14||3||7||0|
|Raptors vs. Pacers, 2016||Eastern Conference First Round||Win, 89-84||37||11||5-14||0-4||1-2||9||4||1|
|Raptors vs. Heat, 2016||Eastern Conference Semifinals||Win, 116-89||42||35||11-20||5-7||8-11||9||7||4|
Lowry saw the worst of it in 2014 when Paul Pierce blocked his game-winning layup attempt at the buzzer to lose Game 7 and get knocked out of the playoffs. He's also seen the best of it with 35 points, nine assists, seven boards and four steals to send the Raptors to their first ever Eastern Conference Finals back in 2016.
"We gotta play hard and leave it all out there. Dive for lose balls, take charges, just do whatever it takes to win the game," Lowry stated.
And whatever it takes could be playing every minute of the game if he has to. Head coach Nick Nurse told the media yesterday that he thinks "the minutes thing for both teams will probably be off the table" and that he would "expect the best players to play as many minutes as they can until it's decided."
This Game 7 is familiar territory for these two franchises - in 2001, the 76ers beat the Raptors in Game 7 in Philadelphia to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Lowry, being a Philly native, was asked what he remembers from that game. He sarcastically stated, "I don't remember it, I don't care, it don't matter," before giving a serious and straight-forward answer, "We want a different outcome."
It will be hard to match his Game 7 outing against Miami from 2016, but the Raptors are going to need a similar version of Lowry if they're going to edge the Sixers to survive and advance and keep this fantastic season alive beyond today.