Raptors’ Lowry-DeRozan duo puts Heat on brink of elimination
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Kyle Lowry scored five points in the final minute of the fourth quarter to lead the Raptors to a 99–91 win over the Heat in Game 5 of their second-round series on Wednesday.
Lowry and his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan broke out of their prolonged scoring slumps to put Miami on the brink of elimination, with Toronto now leading the series 3–2.
Lowry shot poorly again—only 36%—but hit the game’s biggest shot: A deep step-back three-pointer over Josh Richardson to give Toronto a 93–87 lead with just over 52 seconds to go. On the Raptors’ next possession, Lowry answered a Dwyane Wade jumper with one of his own, more or less shutting down a potential comeback. DeRozan then iced the game at the line, hitting four free throws in the final seconds to give him 34 points for the game.
Miami should never have had a chance to win.
The Heat fell down by 20 points in the second quarter, thwarted by Bismack Biyombo’s energy on both ends of the court. The Heat managed to battle back, ending the first half on a 10–0 run to cut the halftime deficit to 10. In the fourth quarter, Miami finally made a push, cutting the Toronto lead to one point before a defensive gaffe put DeRozan at the line for two shots. On Miami’s next possession, Goran Dragic turned the ball over, giving way to Lowry’s big three-pointer.
Wade was the only player with any semblance of offense for Miami, and even his effort was spotty in the first half, particularly on the defensive end. He finished with 20 points, while none of his teammates finished with more than 13.
Injuries continued to take their toll on this series. Luol Deng and DeMarre Carroll both left the game with left wrist injuries, and DeRozan also left briefly as he re-aggravated an injury to his right thumb. And the attrition has manifested itself on the court, with both teams shooting poorly in a display of mostly ugly basketball.
For Toronto, the formula is simple: If Lowry and/or DeRozan get hot, the team is tough to beat. In fact, the team with the higher scoring backcourt has won every game of the series. And Toronto’s starting guards dominated Wednesday, scoring 59 points on 20-of-47 shooting.
DeRozan was much more committed to entering the paint, finding some easy points on floaters and shots closer to the hoop. The early scoring seemed to lift DeRozan’s confidence, as he began sinking the midrange jumpers he clanked for the first four games of the series. Lowry’s shooting was uneven, but he was a plus-25 in his 41 minutes, and played a complete game, also piling up 10 rebounds and six assists.
Biyombo’s play should not be overlooked. Starting in place of the injured Jonas Valanciunas, he was a menace in the first half. Biyombo owned the glass on both ends of the floor, and his energy not only lead to easy dunks, but helped place Miami in early foul trouble.
Miami simply could not afford to start Amar’e Stoudemire in Game 5. Toronto jumped out to a 9–0 lead against the Heat starters, and Miami seemed to somewhat calm down when Josh McRoberts entered the game. The Heat also waited until the large second-quarter deficit to turn to the small lineup that was so successful in Game 4. That lineup, featuring Deng at center, played well, but is in jeopardy moving forward considering with Deng possibly missing time.
The Heat desperately need another offensive contributor outside of Wade. Joe Johnson has gone ice cold, Gerald Green is too jittery and Justise Winslow is not at all a threat. Richardson finally came on in the fourth quarter, and Miami can help itself by staying smaller for much of Game 6.
The Heat found some positives in the second half. Tyler Johnson, playing his most minutes since shoulder surgery in February, was aggressive in attacking the rim and mostly stout defensively. But Miami’s offense still seems lost, far removed from the team that significantly improved its scoring output after the All-Star break.
Will the Raptors close the series out in Miami on Friday? It’s tempting to say yes, just so we don’t have to watch anymore of this series. If Erik Spoelstra avoids playing Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem, the Heat may be able to scratch out enough offense to force a Game 7.
But if DeRozan and Lowry can combine for another big night, the Raptors—whatever’s left of them, anyway—can punch their ticket to the East finals.