All postseason long, the Toronto Raptors have waited for their All-Star backcourt to show up. The wait is over.
DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 34 points, and Kyle Lowry had a strong all-around performance despite a poor shooting night as the Raptors held on for a 99-91 win over the Miami Heat in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday. Toronto holds a 3-2 advantage in the best-of-seven series.
Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun offered reaction from the crowd:
And Crying Jordan time, of course:
The Raptors opened the game with a 9-0 run and never trailed. They held Miami to 40.3 percent shooting from the field and finally solved the Dwyane Wade riddle after being flummoxed for four games.
DeRozan, who had been derided in many circles after laying a foundation of bricks throughout the series, finally found his stroke. While many were still contested mid-range jumpers, DeRozan knocked down 11 of his 22 attempts—a number good enough to quiet his strongest critics. As Mike Mazzeo of ESPN.com noted, DeRozan and Lowry started out hot after an ugly Game 4:
DeRozan has been playing through a bothersome right thumb injury that briefly sidelined him in the fourth quarter.
"I’ve never been one of those guys to be like, ‘Why? Why did this happen, or why'd it happen now?’ It’s part of the game. You’ve got to take the good with the bad sometimes," DeRozan said before Game 5, per Michael Lee of The Vertical. "I’m going to fight through it, deal with it and go from there with it. I’ve got a whole summer to let it heal and figure itself out."
Lowry, meanwhile, struggled to stay hot from the field after the first quarter. He hit just seven of his 21 shots over the final three quarters, but drilled perhaps the biggest shot of the game when it counted. Ahead three points with under a minute remaining, Lowry pulled up on what seemed like an ill-advised three-pointer off the dribble.
But the shot went in, giving the Raptors a 93-87 lead and allowing the crowd at Air Canada Centre to breathe a sigh of relief. Lowry then hit an off-the-dribble fade on Toronto's subsequent possession to seal the game.
There may be no better way to put it:
Lowry added 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals to go with his 25 points. A Lowry three-pointer and two DeRozan free throws halted an 18-6 Miami run that brought the Heat as close as one point.
Wade couldn't find a rhythm with his shot for most of the night but finished with 20 points, eight coming in the fourth. He added seven rebounds and four assists and gained the trust of Shea Serrano:
The Heat might have been able to pull off their comeback had Wade's fellow starters picked up the slack. Goran Dragic failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter and didn't even attempt a shot. Joe Johnson had six points in the final frame but only had five in the first three.
Despite being largely depleted amid a sea of injuries, the Heat got good minutes from their bench Wednesday. Josh Richardson knocked down half the team's six three-pointers on his way to a 13-point night, Justise Winslow had eight points and seven rebounds, and the Udonis Haslem-Josh McRoberts big-man duo combined for 12 points and six boards.
The Raptors got only 16 total bench points, as head coach Dwane Casey kept a short leash. Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph were the lone reserves to play more than 10 minutes. Three of the five Raptors starters played at least 38 minutes, and DeRozan likely would have had he not been in foul trouble.
Things could be getting even more grim for both sides. Luol Deng and DeMarre Carroll each left in the second half with left wrist injuries. The Heat announced Deng's X-rays came back "inconclusive," and he did not return. Per the Raptors, Carroll was diagnosed with a wrist contusion—X-rays were negative—but he also sat out the stretch run.
With both teams having already lost their starting centers, it isn't looking promising. The winner of this bloodbath will have to contend with a well-rested Cleveland Cavaliers team that's yet to lose this postseason. If these two teams keep going at this rate, they'll be playing for the right to be Cleveland's chum on the Cavs' way to the NBA Finals.
For now, Toronto is too busy celebrating being one win away from its first conference finals appearance to care.
"Even though we played so poorly in the first half, you felt it would come down to a possession game down the stretch. And it did. And they made more plays down the stretch," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, per Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel.
"That was big to come out like that against a very proud team," Casey said. "And we ran early. It helped the rhythm of Kyle and DeMar to get some easy buckets, because this is a tough defense."
NBATV offered Wade's reaction:
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