TORONTO -- It has been a painful process at times for the Toronto Raptors but they finally took the next step.
The victory puts the Raptors in the Eastern Conference final for the first time in franchise history against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The series opens Tuesday in Cleveland.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey sees it as "as another step for us...but we're not there yet."
"For this program from where we started to where we are now, it's very important," Casey said. "I think we've done everything we set out to do, but again, we're not done yet."
The ultimate goal is an NBA championship. "I'm not saying we can do that," Casey said. "But I think this group is hungry and never say never. I know one thing, our guys will compete."
The Raptors will be underdogs against the Cavaliers, who finished first in the Eastern Conference with Toronto finishing second.
"We have a tough task," Lowry said. "But then it's still basketball. ...It's always a challenge to play against those guys."
"We're so focused on getting ready for our next challenge," DeRozan. "Once you get into the postseason you learn nothing is going to be easy. It gets tougher every single game. ...It's just about battling. Nothing is going to be pretty, nothing is going to do the way you want it to go.
"We tip our hats to the Toronto organization," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "You have to respect an organization that has gone through some pain in the playoffs and then to be able to overcome that. ... It was a heck of a series to be involved with. ...It's unfortunate that people thought that this was maybe not the most elegant series but it was one of the more competitive ones."
The Raptors led most of the way. They took a 16-point lead during the third quarter and were up by eight entering the fourth quarter and soon had the lead at 20.
Lowry's 3-pointer with 3:24 left made the lead 25 points.
DeMarre Carroll added 14 points for Toronto, Bismack Biyombo scored 17 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while Patrick Patterson had 11 points and 11 rebounds
"They were the better team for the majority of the game," Wade said. "With what we had we fought tooth and nail to get to that goal of the Eastern Conference final and fell one game short. We exhausted all possibilities. We did everything we possibly could to get there".
The Raptors led by as many as five points in the first quarter and were ahead 25-24 entering the second quarter.
Miami took a 37-36 lead with 5:35 left in the first half when Joe Johnson completed his run of six straight points with a driving hook shot.
The Raptors went on a 10-2 surge completed by Patterson's putback layup and free throw to lead 46-39 with 3:16 to play in the half. The Raptors led 53-47 at the intermission with Lowry scoring 16 points and DeRozan with 15. Wade and Dragic led Miami with 10 points each.
The Raptors led by nine with 8:46 to play in the third quarter after DeRozan made a jumper and Lowry put in a layup. The lead reached 11 on Carroll's 3-poiner. Consecutive layups by Biyombo and Lowry put the Raptors into a 16-point lead with 5:51 to play in the third quarter.
The Heat whittled the lead to six on Tyler Johnson's 3-pointer before the Raptors took an 86-78 lead into the fourth quarter.
"Once we got to six at the end of the third quarter, I thought we had a chance when Tyler hit that 3," Spoelstra said. "But Toronto just kept on coming and their most aggressive, most energetic burst was at the beginning of the fourth quarter and they put it away. They wore us down."
Carroll hit a 3-pointer with 10:16 to play and the Raptors led by 13 points. A 3-pointer by Terrence Ross bumped the lead to 16.
Patterson hit two free throws with 7:30 to play and the lead increased to 20 points.
The Heat cut four points off the lead before Toronto got the lead up to 22 points on a jumper by DeRozan with 3:57 to play and Lowry followed with the 3-pointer for a 25-point lead.
"Obviously this is why you play the season, you play to have home court," Deng said. "Even though we took one here, they came back and took one (in Miami). But when it comes down to Game 7, it is very difficult to win on the road."
NOTES: Heat C Hassan Whiteside (sprained right MCL) made the trip to Toronto with the team but did not play Sunday. ... Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas (sprained right ankle) also did not play. ... Each team played a Game 7 for the second series in a row. The Heat defeated the Charlotte Hornets and the Raptors defeated the Indians Pacers in Game 7 of their respective first-round playoff series. ... Three games of the series went to overtime. The most overtime games in a best-of-seven series is four -- Oklahoma City Thunder-Memphis Grizzlies in 2013 and Boston Celtics-Chicago Bulls in 2008.