It took ESPN's Zach Lowe one tweet to succinctly recap a bizarre Game 4 between the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat:
I assume all TOR and MIA beat writers are writing their recaps as some sort of comedy piece?— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) May 10, 2016
That says it all. This game was a joke and said joke was mostly on Toronto.
The Heat beat the Raptors 94-87 in overtime (the third time a game has gone into an extra frame in four showdowns this series).
You would think that a series with a narrow average point differential of 1.3 (in favour of the Heat) and with 75% of its games going into overtime would be one of the most competitive and exciting you had ever seen, but that simply hasn't been the case.
In fact, this series -- and Game 4 in particular -- is probably best described with two visuals from last night.
DeMar DeRozan losing the dribble off his foot and hitting Goran Dragic square in the face:
TOR-MIA— alex (@steven_lebron) May 10, 2016
And the ball getting stuck on the rim during a Dwyane Wade layup with less than a minute left in overtime and refusing to come down, likely sick of being part of arguably the ugliest series this postseason:
This game in one photo. pic.twitter.com/WrxraupLbL— CBS Sports NBA (@CBSSportsNBA) May 10, 2016
Words like ugly and disgusting are among the ones being used most to describe this Raptors loss. What contributed to that?
DeMar DeRozan keeps lowering the bar
Another playoff game, another terrible performance by DeMar DeRozan. This one might've been his worst to date this postseason and that's saying a lot considering how stiff the competition is for that (dis)honour.
DeRozan scored only nine points on 4-for-17 shooting from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line, failed to record a single assist, turned the ball over three times, and was tied for a team-worst plus-minus of -11. He forced just about every look (14 of his 17 shots were contested and he only hit four of them) and was deservedly benched for most of the fourth quarter until Kyle Lowry's fouling out forced Dwane Casey's hand.
DeRozan is a two-time All-Star that is shooting 33.0% from the field (on 19.8 attempts!) and 15.8% from three-point range through 11 playoff games. He has disrupted his team's rhythm far too often this postseason and it's kind of a miracle that the Raptors have gotten this far with a guy who is supposed to be one of their best players racking up so many piss poor performances.
Kyle Lowry's slump isn't quite over
After a vintage Kyle Lowry shooting performance in Game 3, he fell back down below the earth's surface in Game 4, shooting 2-for-11 from the field and 0-for-6 from long range.
As has been the case for most of the postseason, however, Lowry found other ways to contribute when his shot wasn't falling, He still managed to score 10 points -- largely thanks to his going 6-for-7 from the line -- while tossing in seven rebounds, nine assists, and four steals.
He was also the game's leader in deflections (four) and tied with Cory Joseph for the team lead in loose balls recovered (three). His -2 plus-minus mark was the third best on the team behind Bismack Biyombo (+11) and Patrick Patterson (+8).
Look no further than this stat to understand his positive impact on the game, shooting numbers notwithstanding:
Heat outscored the Raptors 15-6 after Kyle Lowry fouled out— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 10, 2016
Lowry's shooting a DeRozan-esque 33.1% from the field and 19.7% from long range this postseason, but his contributions in other facets of the game are saving him from drawing the same ire from the media (and Raptors fanbase) that DeRozan has.
Cold shooting aside, the Raptors still have Lowry to thank for being two games removed from the Eastern Conference Finals.
Rotation questions galore
With Jonas Valanciunas sidelined for the rest of this series, head coach Dwane Casey and the Raptors are searching for lineup combinations that can hang with a Heat team that is also down a crucial big man in Hassan Whiteside, but is far more used to going small.
Bismack Biyombo did a great job sliding into the starting lineup in place of JV, racking up 13 points, 13 boards, a steal, and two blocked shots in 31.3 minutes, while finishing with a team-high plus-minus of +11 and contesting a game-high 14 shots.
The Raptors generally did well with lineups in which Biyombo was featured. Their two most used lineups (the starting lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and Biyombo, as well as the same lineup combination with Cory Joseph in place of Lowry) combined to play 17.7 minutes in Game 4 and outscored Miami 35-25.
Where the Raptors ran into problems was when they had to give Biyombo some rest. Lineup combinations that featured Patrick Patterson at the five were outscored 17-6 and outrebounded 7-4 in 8.3 minutes of action. Lucas Nogueira made a surprising playoff appearance and even played 13.5 minutes, but he was a -7 in those minutes (-22.2 Net Rating) and not a single lineup of the five that he was featured in was a net positive on the night.
Is the answer Jason Thompson? Perhaps Luis Scola and his -8.0 Net Rating this postseason? Casey and the Raptors will continue to grasp at straws in the next one, but ultimately their options should be just as good or better than Miami's Whiteside replacements in Amar'e Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem, and Josh McRoberts, right?
Credit where credit is due
The Raptors lost this game largely because of the poor shooting of their All-Star backcourt and an inability to plug the massive hole left by Jonas Valanciunas, but the Heat also won this game because Dwyane Wade continues to be classic Dwyane Wade.
In Game 4, Wade scored 30 points on 13-for-24 shooting (including a magnificent 10-for-18 on contested looks), adding four rebounds, two assists, and two steals. On the series, Wade is averaging 27.3 points on 49.4% shooting from the field, an uncharacteristic 60.0% from long range, and 85.0% from the charity stripe, to go with 6.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest.
He's been the best player in this matchup, hands down.
The painted area
The Heat outscored the Raptors 54-38 in the paint in Game 4. Miss you, JV.