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Lowry forces OT, but poor shooting, play doom Raptors

Half-court shot was one of 3 buckets by Lowry in Game 1 loss

POSTED: May 4, 2016 1:52 AM ET

By John Schuhmann

BY John Schuhmann

NBA.com

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Heat vs. Raptors

Dwyane Wade grabs 24 points with 6 rebounds and the Heat beat the Raptors in overtime, 102-96.

— Maybe the shot was just what Kyle Lowry needed to turn things around and start playing like an All-Star again.

Maybe not.

Lowry's half-court, miracle buzzer-beater sent Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals to overtime and gave the Toronto Raptors a second life on Tuesday. But that second life was much like the first, a display of how the Raptors' best player is playing his worst basketball at the worst possible time.

If you watched the first round and thought that Lowry couldn't play worse than he did against the Indiana Pacers, you were wrong. After shooting 32 percent in that series, Lowry shot 3-for-13 in Game 1, 0-for-6 on 3-pointers that didn't come at the regulation buzzer. His only shot in overtime was well off the mark, only slightly closer to going in than the airball he shot with 23 seconds to go in regulation.

The poor shooting was one reason why the Raptors lost their fifth straight Game 1 at home and the Miami Heat took home-court advantage with a 102-96 victory. Another was that Lowry didn't do enough to make up for his shots not falling. In fact, his shooting affected the rest of his game, truly got into his head, and hurt the Raptors' offense beyond the shots that he missed.

There was a moment midway through the fourth quarter where Lowry muscled through Heat rookie Josh Richardson for a bucket on the baseline and then immediately took the ball from Richardson in the backcourt. At times, Lowry tried to fight through his struggles, to be a bulldog when he couldn't buy a shot.

Lowry Beats The Buzzer To Force Overtime

Kyle Lowry drains the impossible shot to send Game 1 into overtime.

But there were also clear examples of his shooting affecting the rest of his game, times where he had an open shot, on the perimeter or in the paint, and forced passes that weren't there. That was the difference between the Indiana series and Tuesday night. Shooting poorly is not the same as playing poorly, but Lowry did both in Game 1.

"I passed up a lot of shots tonight," he admitted. "I passed up a ton of shots, actually. So with the poor shooting, I think that's what it did to me a little bit more tonight."

Without Lowry being able to shoot or at least make the right plays, the Raptors' offense bogged down for much of the game, including multiple big possessions late in the fourth quarter and overtime. They finished with 96 points on 102 possessions, a rough outing for what was a top-five offense in the regular season.

The Heat weren't much better, but Lowry's counterpart, Goran Dragic, led all scorers with 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Ultimately, the difference was three tough shots from Joe Johnson, Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade at the start of overtime. Miami blew a six-point lead with less than 10 seconds to go in regulation, but responded like the veteran group that they are.

"To show the mental resolve to come back and take control of overtime," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, "that's a great mental toughness that I think we showed from there."

It's going to take even more mental toughness for Lowry to respond to how poorly he's been playing. After the game, he went to the practice court and put up shots by himself. He returned to the locker room and, ball in hand, answered every question from the media. Later, after midnight, he was back on the main floor of the Air Canada Centre, shooting without a rebounder.

He's searching for his shot, searching for answers, and hoping they come in time to keep his team alive.

"Right now, there's definitely a thousand different things going on [in my mind]," he said, "because of how I'm not shooting well. But ... I don't know. It's weird. It's weird."

Lowry's poor shooting goes back to late March, when he had his right elbow drained of fluid. But according to the Raptors, he's not currently receiving treatment on the elbow. And he says that his performance in the practice gym is fine.

Goran Dragic Scores 26

Goran Dragic scores 26 points in the Heat's win over the Raptors.

"I shoot the ball well when I'm by myself," he said, "but ... I'm by myself.

"I'm just trying to get the touch back. I don't know where it's at. It's kind of mind-boggling right now. It's frustrating, but I'm not going to shy away from the criticism or anything. I want to continue to be aggressive, shoot shots and take the onus. I know I'm not playing well at all. We got out of one series with me not shooting the ball well, but we got to get out of this next series and I have to play better, shoot the ball better, score the ball better."

When the Toronto Raptors are playing well, Lowry is their best player. When Lowry is their worst player, the Raptors are in trouble.

"We have to believe in him," coach Dwane Casey said. "We do believe in him."

Nobody knows how bad the timing is than the man himself.

"It sucks that I'm playing this bad when all eyes are on me," he said, "because I know I'm way better than this. So I got to pick this **** up."

Maybe the late-night shooting is what Lowry needs to turn things around and start playing like an All-Star again.

Maybe not.

Game 2 is Thursday (8 ET, ESPN), and the Raptors can't afford to lose another one at home. And they can't afford another poor performance from their point guard.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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