Toronto takes 3-2 series lead as Derozan, Lowry combine for 59
POSTED: May 12, 2016 3:38 AM ET
Game 7: Raptors 116, Heat 89
Kyle Lowry leads Toronto to its first appearance in the East finals.
TORONTO — Twelve games into the postseason, the Toronto Raptors finally got All-Star performances from both of their All-Stars.
DeMar DeRozan made half of his shots for the first time in over a month. Kyle Lowry was less efficient, but hit the two biggest shots of the night, a pair of step-back jumpers -- one from 3-point range, the other from 12 feet out -- that gave the Toronto Raptors the cushion they needed to hold on for a 99-91 victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It was a wire-to-wire win that gave the Raptors a 3-2 series lead. But because no game in this series can be determined until the final minute, things got tense in the Air Canada Centre before Lowry saved the day. And because there haven't been enough injuries in these playoffs, both teams lost starting forwards -- Luol Deng for Miami and DeMarre Carroll for Toronto -- to left wrist injuries.
The pair joined Chris Bosh, Hassan Whiteside and Jonas Valanciunas on the shelf, and their status going forward was unknown Wednesday night. Even if Deng can play in Game 6 on Friday, the Heat's frontline is down to Amar'e Stoudemire and Udonis Haslem (who combined to play just 13 minutes on Wednesday) and a bunch of forwards.
Miami played super small most of the night, and this time Toronto didn't feel the need to match up. Bismack Biyombo is the only effective center left in this series, and Raptors coach Dwane Casey had him on the floor for almost 38 minutes on Wednesday, including every big possession on both offense and defense down the stretch.
"We learned from the last game," Casey said about sticking with his big lineup, something he didn't do down the stretch on Monday. With Biyombo off the floor, the Heat got to the rim for key baskets late in regulation and in overtime in Game 4.
The last game, they went small and we went small, and obviously, they were stronger than us. [Tonight], we stayed big, so we forced them to play our way instead of trying to play their way.
– Raptors center Bismack Biyombo
In general, playing small leads to more potent offense, but not if you can't shoot. And Miami doesn't have enough shooters to punish their opponents from the outside. They use floor spacing to attack. But with Biyombo on the floor, the Heat's attacks, their primary source of offense, aren't as plentiful or as successful.
"The last game, they went small and we went small, and obviously, they were stronger than us," Biyombo said. "[Tonight], we stayed big, so we forced them to play our way instead of trying to play their way."
In their six playoff wins, the Heat have averaged 49.3 points on 63 percent shooting in the paint. In their six losses, they've averaged only 37.3 points on 48 percent shooting in the paint. Keep them away from the basket and you have a great chance of beating them, no matter how well your All-Stars play on the other end of the floor.
Miami shot just 17-for-38 in the paint in Game 5. Dwyane Wade, who tied Game 4 with a layup in the final seconds with Biyombo off the floor, was 1-for-6.
There were stretches where the small ball was beating big ball on Wednesday. After leading by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, the Raptors were up just 10 at the half. And after leading by as many as 15 in the fourth quarter, their lead was whittled down to one with less than two minutes to go. Joe Johnson was able to get around Patterson for a couple of buckets in that fourth-quarter Miami run.
But Casey didn't panic. For the most part, as long as the Raptors weren't miscommunicating on defense, Miami was hitting tough shots from the outside. Casey went with process over results and stuck with his big lineup.
We're getting thrown around and they were able to get some important extra possessions. We had some advantages the other way. That's the give and take of it. Tonight, they were able to take advantage of it.
– Heat coach Erick Spoelstra
Biyombo's 37:33 was the second-most playing time he's had in regulation this season. And Patrick Patterson's 40 minutes were the most he's played prior to overtime. They combined for just 18 points and 12 rebounds, but their size vs. Miami's micro lineups paid dividends on both ends of the floor.
Not only did he keep the Heat from scoring at the basket, but Biyombo was a huge part of a stretch of 11 straight Toronto scores in the second quarter, scoring eight of his 10 points. When he rolled to the rim with a little space, in the half-court and in transition, no weak-side Miami defender could handle him. The Raptors' bigs also helped their team register 22 second chance points, grabbing six offensive boards and drawing four loose ball fouls under their basket.
"We're putting bodies on them," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We're getting thrown around and they were able to get some important extra possessions. We had some advantages the other way. That's the give and take of it. Tonight, they were able to take advantage of it."
"Our physicality, our playing through stuff," Casey said, "allowed us to stay big, to stay with what we were doing and with our game plan."
Game 5 was the easily the best combined performance from Lowry and DeRozan in this postseason. The Raptors don't win on Wednesday if their stars don't play big. But they're also one win from the first trip to the conference finals in franchise history because ... they played big.
Size matters, as long as you keep it on the floor.
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