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It took a couple tries, but the Miami Heat survived an overtime thriller to steal Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors with a 102–96 win on Tuesday.
The Heat looked to have the game sealed in the fourth quarter after a late Goran Dragic three gave them a five-point lead, only for a comedy of errors—a traveling call on an inbounds pass, missed free throws—to pave the way for a Kyle Lowry half-court heave to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Miami quickly scored the first eight points, then seemed poised to blow the lead again before Dwyane Wade ultimately channeled his inner Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon 4 to will Miami to a win. Wade finished with a stuffed stat line: 24 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks, with his steals and blocks in particular surfacing in the game’s tensest moments. Dragic was Miami’s best player for most of the night, scoring 26 points with six assists in 41 minutes.
For the Raptors—who’ve now lost five straight Game 1s—the script was the same as always. Poor shooting from their biggest stars highlighted what was yet another uneven effort. Lowry made the night’s most outstanding play, but shot only 3 of 13, and was thoroughly dominated in his point guard matchup. DeMar DeRozan, who punished the Heat during the regular season, shot 9 of 22 en route to 22 points. Terrance Ross was a bright spot with 19 points, while Jonas Valanciunas scored an extremely efficient 24.
Stylistically, the game was a classic Eastern Conference battle, which is to say: ugly. Surprisingly, the veteran Miami squad seemed the more jittery team at the start, making too many passes on offense and turning the ball over frequently. The Heat also missed plenty of shots at the rim, and survived a brief scare when Hassan Whiteside appeared to hurt his knee. Toronto, playing in its first second-round game since 2001, came out with good energy, but its poor shooting kept Miami in the game.
Whiteside, coming off a dominating defensive performance in the Heat’s Game 7 win over Charlotte, could not conjure the same magic on Tuesday. He played mostly well, but started off sleepy in the first quarter, seemingly not coming to life until after his injury.
For the Raptors, tying up the series in Game 2 seems to be a matter of getting Lowry going. He and DeRozan entered Tuesday with the worst two shooting percentages of players with more than 275 shot attempts in playoff history, and they continue to struggle to find good looks. DeRozan too often settled for pull-up jumpers Tuesday, while Lowry couldn’t bully his way into the paint despite a physical advantage over Dragic.
Toronto decided to match Miami’s starting lineup by playing small—Norman Powell started in place of Patrick Patterson. The decision mostly backfired: Powell scored only two points, and most of his energy was expended on the defensive end.
Miami is not without its issues. Justise Winslow’s offensive struggles are becoming a glaring liability, and his decision making was poor on Tuesday. The Heat offense stagnated at times, and Erik Spoelstra curiously went away from Dragic late in the game, perhaps too happy to live or die on Wade’s elbow jumpers.
However, it was Wade who unquestionably carried the team in overtime. His pick-and-roll mastery was on full display, as he found his spots for two early scores. He sealed the game with an and-one layup, giving him seven of Miami’s 12 points in the final frame.
Of course, the Raptors are familiar with this position, and just recently rallied from a Game 1 loss to defeat Indiana in seven in Round 1. And lest we forget, the Heat had a 2–0 lead on the Hornets before finding themselves on the brink of elimination in Game 6. There are no sweeping conclusions to be drawn—yet.
Game 2 is Thursday.