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In 2-2 series with three OT games, questions abound

Can Wade -- 30 points in Game 4 -- keep up this level of play?

POSTED: May 10, 2016 11:10 AM ET

By Lang Whitaker

BY Lang Whitaker

NBA.com

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Raptors vs. Heat: Game 4

Dwyane Wade scores 30 points to lead Miami over Toronto in overtime, 94-87.

— There are a few things we can say for certain following Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors, which the Heat won in overtime, 94-87.

We know, for instance, that the series is tied at two games apiece, and heading back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday night (8 ET, TNT).

We know that Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto's starting center, is out for the remainder of the series after an ankle sprain in Game 3. We also know it's that Hassan Whiteside, Miami's starting center is likely out for the rest of the series after suffering a sprained knee, also in Game 3.

Other than that? Your guess is probably about as good as anyone else's at this point. This series has been incredibly close thus far -- three of the four games have been decided in overtime, with Toronto holding a 374-372 aggregate lead.

With three games still to play to decide a winner, there may be more questions looming in this series than there are answers remaining.

Was this the best-played game of the series?

No. It had a close ending, but put it this way: "Red on Roundball" probably won't be optioning the footage of this game. Perhaps it was because it was the series' fourth game in seven days, but the play was ragged, to say the least. There were shot clock violations, jump balls tipped directly out of bounds, passes rifled into the front row of the stands, a five-second call on an inbound play and even a clutch layup with a minute left in overtime that ended up improbably balanced on the back of the rim.

Close, But No Cigar

Dwyane Wade drives for the layup, but the ball rolls and stays on the back iron resulting in a jump ball.

The Raptors shot 39.3 percent from the field. The Heat shot 6.7 percent (1-for-15) on three-pointers. All in all, it was not aesthetically pleasing.

Can Dwyane Wade keep up this level of play?

Wade finished with 30 points in Game 4, giving him a total of 68 total points in Games 3 and 4. With 6:40 remaining in Game 4, Toronto held a 77-68 lead. Wade then got a bucket, grabbed three rebounds, then scored five more points to make it a two-point game. With just over 12 seconds left in regulation, Wade weaved his way to the basket for a layup to tie it and send it to overtime. He iced the game with a steal and dunk at the end of overtime.

Wade Shines With 30

Dwyane Wade leads Miami over Toronto scoring 30 points in overtime to seal the victory.

"He's getting stronger," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. "It's the work that he has put in. You can't just turn it on at this time of the year. He's put in a ton of work in the offseason. This is probably the hardest he has worked."

"Games like this, moments like this, that's what I go back to," Wade agreed. "I go back to the hard work I put in and how I was pushed by my trainers, and all the work I do on my body night in and night out. Some days I don't want to do it, but when you have games like I've been able to put together, it makes you want to continue to do the things so you can feel as good as possible on the basketball court."

What happened to Toronto's Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan?

Toronto's two best players combined to shoot 6-for-28 in Game 4. DeRozan, who has been nursing an injured thumb on his shooting hard, missed most of the second half. After a breakout Game 3, where he finished with 33 points, Lowry fouled out with 1:58 left in regulation after being whistled for an offensive foul while trying to drive against Miami rookie Justise Winslow. DeRozan returned moments later but went 1-for-3 with a turnover the rest of the way.

Inside The NBA: Raptors' Stars Slumping

The Inside crew talk about Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan's offensive struggles against the Heat.

"It is what it is," DeRozan said. "It's something that I got to deal with. There's no complaining or making excuses... I'm going to push through it. You can't let frustration get to you at all. You got to stay positive."

How did the teams fill their center voids?

The Heat began with Amar'e Stoudemire in the starting lineup, but he ended up logging only 12 minutes. Reserve big Josh McRoberts also played 20 minutes and Udonis Haslem got 10, but down the stretch the Heat went genuinely small, with Luol Deng and Winslow alternating in the middle. Bismack Biyombo got the start in the middle for Toronto, and played pretty well, finishing with 13 points, 13 boards and 2 blocks in 31 minutes. But with Miami going so undersized, Toronto coach Dwane Casey mostly went with power forward Patrick Patterson at center down the stretch and in overtime.

"We needed some scoring," explained Casey. "Biyombo does a great job defensively. We were looking for offense. We were looking to break the defense and drive and kick. Give the Miami Heat credit, they did a good job of snuffing out our drive and kick game."

Heat-Raptors Game 5 Preview

Isiah Thomas and Dennis Scott look ahead to the game 5 match-up between the Miami Heat and the Toronto Raptors.

Is Winslow back in Miami's rotation?

After seeing significant time in every Heat playoff game, Justise Winslow didn't get off the bench in Game 3. But as Game 4 progressed and small ball loomed, the versatile Winslow got in early on, and played a key role for the Heat the last few minutes, finishing with nine points and four rebounds, as well several key defensive stops.

"I'm sure he was angry about the other night, not playing," Spoelstra said, "because he wants to put his fingerprints on helping the team. But that didn't faze him at all and he was ready for his opportunity the next time. He was dynamic. He was doing stuff we asked him to do that he wasn't doing before."

Have the Heat found their offensive flow?

Spoelstra has talked wistfully about the Heat playing the way they did in the regular season, and in the fourth quarter and overtime, the Heat seemed to relish driving and kicking the ball on offense. In overtime, every player but Wade scored before Wade got a bucket, as the Heat repeatedly got to the rim and pitched it out to an open man.

"Down the stretch, that was probably the best that we've trusted, moved the ball, had secondary drives from different guys, where we've had much better patience and poise in the last 10 seconds of the clock. So we've worked from good to a better shot. So, we'll take it."

Will this be a small ball series from now on?

A look at the imaginary Magic 8 Ball says ... probably? It's likely not only because both teams are down a center, but at least for Miami, it not only seemed to unlock their offensive firepower, but also give them versatility defensively: the Heat were able to switch defensively on nearly every pick without really losing ground. Joe Johnson even blocked two shots near the rim in overtime.

With three games left, who holds the advantage?

Good luck guessing that one. Between the injuries and changes in rotations and styles of play, there's no simple way to select a favorite. All that's certain is that there are three games left. Whichever team wins two of the next three will advance to meet the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals. But right now, neither Toronto nor Miami can afford to look past these next few days and the finale of what has been a tight battle. "The series is changing," said Spoelstra. "It's so competitive. You're just trying to do whatever to have some kind of advantage."

Lang Whitaker has covered the NBA since 1998. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.

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