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Raptors deservedly lose to Heat, 94-87; Series tied 2-2

After another close game that went to overtime, the series heads back to Toronto tied 2-2.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I'm writing this recap amazed at the guard play I'm watching in this Portland-Golden State series. Is a starting back court allowed to be good simultaneously? What is this sorcery from CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard? I digress.

The Raptors lost tonight 94-87 in overtime in another nail-biting finish. That makes it three overtime games out of four, and on balance, a 2-2 series probably seems fair overall. But with each game being a discrete data point, you'd be justified in feeling that the Raptors let this one slip away. The Raptors held a 77-68 with 6 minutes left. The Heat stormed back though, after some perplexing lineup decisions by Dwane Casey opened the window for another time-capsule performance by Dwyane Wade to steal this game.

The Raptors came out with Bismack Biyombo replacing Jonas Valanciunas in the starting lineup and he didn't look out of his depth. Active on the offensive glass and clearly more energetic than his counterpart in Amar'e Stoudemire, he bailed the Raptors out of another poor early shooting performance by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. DeRozan and to a lesser extent, Lowry's, struggles have become too difficult for the Raptors to overcome offensively. DeRozan finished the first half an abysmal 2-12 shooting, which included a horribly open missed layup. The Raptors, for some reason, kept force feeding him the ball expecting him to bust out of his slump. It didn't happen as they went into the break trailing 44-35.

Lowry picked up his 4th foul two minutes into the third quarter and was forced to sit for the remainder of the frame. Most would have feared the worst, but the lineup with DeRozan and the bench actually came all the way back to to tie the game up by the end of the quarter. DeMarre Carroll, in particular, went 5-5 over that stretch and helped spark a stagnant Raptors offence.

The final quarter was a tale of two quarters on its own. It began promisingly enough, with Lowry's playmaking and Terrence Ross' shooting providing a lift as the Raptors stretched the lead out to nearly double digits. Notably, DeRozan sat out almost the entire quarter for the second time in the playoffs. The defence had been putting the clamps on the Heat all game, and Biyombo's rim protection had been bothering the Heat's midrange barrage. It all seemed comfortable until the Raptors offence disappeared again.

By the time Lowry fouled out with under two minutes left in the game,  the Raptor lead was down to two. Enter some Wade heroics to tie the game up at 83 and a missed Cory Joseph jumper at the buzzer, and even the most optimistic Raptors fan would've had low hopes for the overtime period. In overtime, the Raptors struggled to create offence with DeRozan on the floor, and the Heat on the other hand did just enough through Wade and Joe Johnson to see this one out 94-87.

Miscellaneous Notes:

  • For anyone who thought Kyle Lowry was all the way back, this game should serve as a reminder that it takes more than one hot shooting night to get the rhythm back. Lowry was effective on defence and in playmaking as always but shot 2-11 on the night, with 4 turnovers.
  • Dwane Casey had a bad game on the bench. The Raptors were letting the clock run down to below 10 before getting anything going on offence for almost the entire game. He played Bebe far too long (13 minutes, -7) instead of trying out Jason Thompson or playing small.
  • Speaking of playing small, the final stretch of overtime might explain why Casey was hesitant to go to that lineup. The Raptors struggled on the defensive glass when Patrick Patterson played the 5, and had people screaming for Biyombo's return. Maybe we see some Jason Thompson next game? Not sure what the solution is yet.
  • One big, big shout out to Cory Joseph and Biyombo. Joseph scored 14 on 17 shots, but was asked to carry an unreasonable load with Lowry and DeRozan struggling. He was typically awesome on defence, dove for loose balls, and played with an edge. Biyombo was a team-leading +11 on the night, and held his own on both ends of the floor. His rebounding and defence was instrumental in the stretch where the Raptors roared back and took the lead.
  • DeMarre Carroll has been poor on defence. He's been ineffective on Wade, and so-so on Johnson.
  • DeMar DeRozan. Yikes. 4-17 shooting. 1-4 from the FT line. He was horrible. Awful turnovers, ball stopping, matador defence, just the complete package of garbage play. I have nothing to say about him. He has turned into a massive liability every time he steps foot on the court. Tied for a team-worst -11.
Teams won't win many games when their best two players are shooting sub 35% from the field and sub 20% from 3. That the Raptors have won a series and hold home court in a 2-2 conference semi-final actually shows how lucky they've been. It's hard to keep sneaking wins out with them playing this way. It's a disappointing loss.

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