Basketball is a crazy game.
The Toronto Raptors hung around and kept the game close, but in the end fell to the Miami Heat 102-96 in overtime, an overtime that never should have happened.
Kyle Lowry, who had been struggling all game, hit a half-court shot to tie the game at 90 and send it to overtime. Twenty seconds prior, the Raptors were down by 6 points. After a Terrence Ross hits a 3-pointer to bring them within four. At the time, it seemed like a consolation prize. Next, the Heat turn the ball over and foul Ross, who proceeds to hit one of two free throws. The Raptors foul on the rebound, but after Hassan Whiteside misses one of his free throws, Lowry pulled off this miracle that ignited a country:
The shot sends the game to extra time, in which the Raptors show they used the last bit of energy they had just to get it to that point. The Heat score the first eight points of the period. Due to some more hustle and dark magic from the Raptors, they claw back and get within three with 10 seconds left and the ball in their hands. Unfortunately, the Raptors ran out of miracles, as DeMar DeRozan turns the ball over to Dwyane Wade to seal the game.
Despite the result, this was as fun as a playoff loss can get.
It was a frustrating night for the Raptors, but especially Kyle Lowry who, besides his miracle shot, remains a shell of his regular season self.
Lowry shot 3-of-13 and 1-of-7 from 3-point range. In typical Lowry fashion, he remained impactful in other areas, including hustling for loose balls and making strong defensive plays. It wasn’t enough, though, and the question remains: Is it possible for the Raptors to win with Lowry shooting worse than a one-armed storm trooper from inside 48-feet?
It’s yet another Game 1 loss for the Raptors, who fall to 1-9 all-time in Game 1s. Of course, there’s always room for optimism. First, and most importantly, the Raptors are in the second round, which may sound sad for fans of other franchises, but it’s important to remember for battered and bruised Raps fans. Also, the team just wrapped up a series in which they lost Game 1, so it’s hardly a death sentence. And finally, the Raptors learned a lot from this loss, as it proved Miami is a good, but beatable team, who apparently have weak literal half-court defence.
This ‘C’ rating is really generous, and had Lowry not made that bomb, would have been much lower. All night long, the Raptors were choosing to take awful shots and missing too many open looks when they got them. The non-Jonas Valanciunas Raptors shot a poor 30-of-73 from the floor.
Momentum was tough to come by this evening, as the veteran Miami squad squashed each Toronto run before it could even get started, until the last few seconds of course. One would hope Lowry’s buzzer-beater would have sparked the team, but the overtime period, like many other key stretches of the game, saw stagnant offence with little ball movement.
That’s especially disappointing, considering the opening one-and-a-half quarters saw the ball snapping from Raptor to Raptor, with the team assisting on nine of its first 16 field goals.
The Raptors began the night highly engaged on defence. The new starting lineup (consisting of Lowry, DeRozan, Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll, and Valanciunas) did a masterful job rotating as Miami swung the ball looking for options. At halftime, the Heat had been held to 38 per cent shooting and turned the rock over 11 times. While both teams were playing with an often frantic pace, the Raptors still forced three early shot-clock violations.
In the second, Miami’s veteran experience began to carry them through. Wade once again showed why he’s a future hall-of-famer, snaking through weak pick-and-roll defence to take and make open shots and layups. This continued into the first few minutes of overtime, as the Raptors looked gassed. It’s also tough to fault the team too much for being carved up by Wade, as he’s done that continuously throughout his career. It’s more than proven that good defence rarely slows him down.
But I’m burying the lede a little bit here. Overall, the defence was strong throughout, the only exceptions being from key stretches of the game. The Dinoes forced 17 turnovers out of the usually disciplined Heat. If they do that routinely this series, the Raptors will be just fine.
Here’s a fun stat:
Heading into tonight’s game, Bismack Biyombo (27.6 per cent) and Valanciunas (25.9 per cent) had the first and third best total rebound percentage in NBA playoff history. That being said, the Raptors’ two giants in the middle didn’t have to compete with a Hassan Whiteside in the first round, who is basically an ent with good hands.
As Dwane Casey opted for the small lineup to start the game, one of the biggest sacrifices would be rebounding, and it showed. The Raptors were out-rebounded 52-41 by game’s end. Valanciunas did his part, with a monster 14-board performance, but no other Raptors had more than six (DeRozan), and Biyombo only had three.
Whiteside, on the other hand, took home 17 rebounds, two of which were offensive. The Heat out-rebounded the Raptors 11-4 on that end, but it should be noted the Raptors were clearly not concerned with the offensive glass, instead electing to get back and halt transition opportunities.
Game Ball: Goran Dragic
Dragic picked up where he left from Game 7 against the Charlotte Hornets, racking up 26 points and 6 rebounds. The scrappy Slovenian was all over the court during his 41 minutes of action, making some absurd shots he had no business making. The Heat’s point guard is hot right now, and the Raptors will have to hope he either cools down, or make some speedy defensive adjustments.
You can follow Matt Jamieson on Twitter @mattjamieson12