Dragic gets 30 as Miami goes small to force elimination game
POSTED: May 14, 2016 12:13 AM ET
Game 7: Raptors 116, Heat 89
Kyle Lowry leads Toronto to its first appearance in the East finals.
MIAMI — Desperate times call for desperate measures.
But desperate doesn't begin to describe some of the personnel maneuvers the Miami Heat unveiled for Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Semifinals series against the Toronto Raptors. With their season on the line, down 3-2 against the Raptors and facing elimination, the Heat trotted out a shrunken starting five that featured 20-year-old Justise Winslow, listed at 6-7, starting at the center position.
"It's whatever is required right now," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. "Both sides, the series has changed quite a bit since May 2. So whatever's necessary right now."
While starting a rookie at center was largely prompted from attrition, it was a couple of veterans who did the heavy lifting for the Heat, helping them even the series with a 103-91 win. When the Heat were looking at a possible end of their season in Game 7 of their first round series against the Charlotte Hornets, Goran Dragic took control, scoring 25 points. Facing elimination again Friday, Dragic shredded Toronto for a career playoff-high 30 points, and chipped in seven rebounds.
"I didn't want to go home to Europe," Dragic joked. "I wanted to stay here."
Dragic got significant help from Dwyane Wade, who finished with 22 points, giving him 110 points in his last four games. While Winslow looked Lilliputian lined up against Toronto center Bismack Biyombo, he finished with 12 points and three rebounds, and more than held his own in the paint.
Miami's rotation shuffles were mostly due to injuries -- Miami center Hassan Whiteside went out during Game 3 with a knee sprain, which made the series "go sideways," according to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. But the Heat's smaller group was also a way to give Toronto a fresh look after five games against the same team.
"It's just unconventional," said Wade of the smaller lineup. "And sometimes unconventional works... at this time of the series you need something a little different."
While they were outsized, Miami was not outworked. The Heat managed to scrap together eight offensive rebounds, including three from Josh McRoberts off the bench. "Those eight offensive rebounds felt like 20," said Spoelstra.
Toronto got huge performances from their All-Star backcourt of Kyle Lowry (36 points) and DeMar DeRozan (23 points). While the two have struggled throughout the postseason, battling injuries and inconsistent shooting, in the elimination game Toronto's dynamic duo was at their full power.
They just didn't get much help. Patrick Patterson was the next-leading scorer with just eight points, and while Biyombo had some success using his size against Miami's smallish lineup, finishing with 13 rebounds and two blocked shots, but he scored only four points. The Raptors also combined to shoot 4-16 from the three-point line.
"I thought we had some good looks," said Toronto coach Dwane Casey. "I thought we had a chance to cut the lead to six [with five minutes to play], and then we fumbled the ball out of bounds. So we had some opportunities in certain situations, but we just didn't take advantage of it."
Now Toronto and Miami, the only two teams that needed seven games to get out of the first round of the Playoffs, line it up for their second Game 7.
"Game 7," said Kyle Lowry, "the 2 [seed] versus 3 [seed], getting the opportunity to play on one of the biggest stages there is, it's gonna be fun. Game 7 in the first round was a little more tight, but this one on Sunday will be, just go out there and hoop."
"You're either going to continue playing or your season's over, that's the reality of it," Wade said. "So you got to give a little more, go a little more, you know obviously it's a great environment to be in, and for us and Toronto to be able to put ourselves in a position to get to this game Game 7, it's phenomenal. But you've got to give everything you have. There's no tomorrow."
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