There was nothing pretty about it, but the Toronto Raptors prevented their title hopes from being placed on life support as they withstood a game-tying three-pointer from Goran Dragic with 10.5 seconds remaining in regulation to capture a 96-92 overtime win at Air Canada Centre on Thursday night.
And, ironically enough, the end of Game 2 represented a complete role reversal for both sides, compared to Game 1.
After the Heat flashed resilience following Kyle Lowry's half-court buzzer-beater in the series' opening contest, the Raptors channeled similar confidence as they outscored Miami by four points in the extra frame to knot the series at one game apiece.
Lowry didn't put forth a wholly redemptive effort following a putrid seven-point performance Tuesday night, but he did knock down a couple of clutch mid-range jumpers in the game's final minute—including one that capped off a 10-0 run:
The All-Star floor general finished with 18 points—11 of which came in the first half—on 7-of-22 shooting, but he encountered a stretch that featured 11 misses on 13 shots before he finally broke through and drilled the two shots with time ticking down.
According to ESPN Stats & Info's Micah Adams, Lowry is the first player in the shot-clock era to shoot under 40 percent from the field (minimum 10 field-goal attempts per game) in nine straight playoff contests.
DeMar DeRozan added 20 points on 9-of-24 shooting in another voluminous yet inefficient display, which was fitting since the Raptors didn't have much to write home about on offense beyond the production of DeMarre Carroll (21 points) and Jonas Valanciunas.
The hulking Lithuanian center was an absolute monster in the paint with 15 points and 12 rebounds, including six on the offensive glass, but the Raptors shot just 41.9 percent from the field, 4-of-18 from three and 14-of-26 from the free-throw line in another sloppy showing.
Dragic—who has now topped 20 points in three consecutive playoff games—led the Heat with 20 points and four assists, while Dwyane Wade added 17 points, six boards and three dimes en route to making some history:
The Heat were steadier on offense throughout with a field-goal percentage of 49.4 and three-point conversion rate of 35.7, but they didn't start off on a particularly encouraging foot against a Raptors team that looked far more focused early.
After closing out Game 1 with a slew of lethargic offensive possessions, the Raptors rebounded in a big way right out of the gate Thursday night.
Boasting an energized spirit, the Raptors rode a confident start from Lowry to a 10-point first-quarter lead that featured nine assists on 13 made baskets.
Beyond the simple fact that the Raptors knocked down open shots, their sets appeared far more crisp as passes ping-ponged around the perimeter following aggressive drive-and-kick efforts by Lowry and the rest of the team's ball-handlers.
And while the Heat shot 8-of-13 in the opening frame, 11 first-quarter turnovers prevented them from establishing any sort of flow. To put that number in perspective, the Heat averaged just 14.1 turnovers per game during the regular season.
However, the narrative shifted in the second quarter.
The Heat didn't play pretty ball by any measure, but they curbed their turnover woes—finishing the half with 12—and outscored the Raptors by three in the frame to pull within seven at the break despite lackluster bench production, which the Miami Herald's Ethan J. Skolnick noted:
But as it turns out, Miami didn't need its reserves to produce in order to close the gap.
Rather, the Heat simply dialed back the pace, pumped the brakes on careless mistakes and handed the reins to their veteran scorers before taking a two-point lead entering the fourth quarter.
Joe Johnson was particularly instrumental during the third-quarter comeback, as he scored Miami's first nine points of the period working primarily against DeRozan:
The Heat's resurgence was also aided by a Toronto offense that suffered serious regression after halftime. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Raptors shot just 6-of-20 from the field and recorded zero assists while getting outscored by nine points in the third.
But even though momentum was flowing strongly in the Heat's favor, Toronto came up big in the clutch after stalling terribly down the stretch in Game 1.
Thanks to Valanciunas' superlative effort on the glass, Lowry's clutch free-throw-line jumpers and some lockdown defense over the game's final five minutes, the Raptors avoided heading back to South Beach facing nearly insurmountable odds.
According to WhoWins.com, teams facing 0-2 deficits in a best-of-seven format have lost 94.1 percent of series all time. So in other words, the Raptors, for all intents and purposes, would have been cooked.
However, the advantage still figures to rest with the Heat as the scene shifts to American Airlines Arena on Saturday. Miami won three of four first-round games at home against the Charlotte Hornets, and its average margin of victory in those triumphs checked in at 25.6 points per game.
Following the win, Lowry spoke to ESPN about the Raptors' ability to knot the series at one game apiece:
However, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey noted postgame that his offense still has plenty to improve upon in the action ahead.
"We're not getting a lot of movement in our [offense] and that's part of the problem... It's hitting us in the 3rd quarter," he said, according to a tweet from TSN's Josh Lewenberg.
But ultimately, the Raptors boss concluded Game 2 was a step forward.
"We can harp on the negatives and beat that drum, beat it to death, but we’re finding other ways to win and that’s very encouraging," Casey added, per CBSSports.com's James Herbert.
"We had our chances ... and then our inability to really contain the basketball after the initial action ... the biggest difference," Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra said, according to the Associated Press' Tim Reynolds.
Not surprisingly, Wade expressed a similar sentiment.
"I feel like if we don't keep committing 20-something turnovers, we will be fine," he said, according to Skolnick.
Back in the locker room, Dragic discussed his busted bottom lip—which required eight stitches after his bottom teeth went through it, per the team's official Twitter account.
"This loss left a bad taste in our mouth," Dragic added, per the Palm Beach Post's Jason Lieser.