It looked like Goran Dragic’s magic was going to be enough to put the Miami Heat over the top in Game 1 against the Toronto Raptors.
But Kyle Lowry undid that with some magic of his own. His half-court heave at the buzzer – preceded by some horrific Heat turnovers down the stretch – sent the game to overtime and Air Canada Centre into a complete frenzy.
Luckily for the Heat, Tuesday night’s tale didn’t end in remorse. Dwyane Wade led Miami out of the woods in overtime, scoring seven of his 24 points in the extra period as the Heat survived 102-96 to take home-court advantage.
“As soon as it left his hand I think everybody in the building kind of had an idea that it would go [in],” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Lowry’s half court heave. “But from that point on I was extremely proud of the group. To get knocked down to the canvas like that [to have] the air punctured out of your body and to have the resolve like that, take control in overtime – that’s a great mental toughness that I think we showed from there.”
Still, it all almost ended in disaster for Miami.
Entering Tuesday, teams up exactly six points with between 10 and 20 seconds left in a playoff game were 161-0 all-time. The Heat attempted to become the first to lose a game, turning the ball over five times in the fourth quarter including three times in the final 30 seconds.
After the Raptors’ Terrence Ross sunk a three-pointer with 6.5 seconds to go to trim the Heat’s lead to 89-86, Luol Deng’s ensuing inbounds pass intended for Wade went awry and nothing but trouble ensued for Miami. Wade, who slipped on the pass, said afterward bruised his right knee on the play.
“If we would have lost – that would have been a bad one,” said Deng, who traveled on an inbounds pass with 22 seconds to go before his pass to Wade turned into his fourth turnover of the night. “I'm just glad we stuck together, guys had my back and we won."
The Heat scored the first eight points of the extra period. But the Raptors made it interesting late.
After Miami’s 20th turnover of the night gave Toronto possession with 10 seconds to play down 99-96, DeMar Derozan lost the ball as he dribbled. Wade pounced on it and drove to the basket for the clinching layup.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Dragic said of Wade. “So many 50-50 balls. Even on that last possession, you can see he’s a monster. When we need that huge play, on offense or defense, he’s gonna come up with it.”
Before Wade’s heroics the story had been Dragic.
After leading the Heat to a blowout in Game 7 Sunday over the Charlotte Hornets with 25 points, the Dragon matched a career playoff-high with 26 against the Raptors including a corner three-pointer with 40.9 seconds that looked like it had clinched the victory for Miami.
Dragic, who started 1 of 8 from the field shooting, finished 10 of 20 for the game with five rebounds and two assists in 37 minutes.
“Goran is tough,” Deng said. “He's going to keep going. He's always going to give teams trouble with his penetration and everything. It's huge for us when he plays like that.”
The Heat, which came in 2-12 all-time in Game 1s played on the road, dropped No. 2 seeded Toronto to 1-9 all-time in Game 1s.
The Raptors made a late change to their starting lineup prior to Game 1, taking out power forward Patrick Patterson, moving DeMarre Carroll into his Patterson’s spot and inserting rookie swingman Norman Powell into the small forward spot. Going small did little for the Raptors offense, which had just two fast break points and nothing from point guard Lowry at the half.
The Heat trailed 43-41 at the half in large part because of turnovers (11) and because it couldn’t finish in the paint. The Heat missed 16 of its first 25 shots in the paint including a dunks by Gerald Green, who caught nothing but air on a reverse attempt, and Deng, who threw it hard down off the rim.
Hassan Whiteside, who came in still fighting through a bruised right thigh, strained his right knee when he slipped and fell attempting to catch a pass in the paint with 4:54 to go in the opening quarter. Whiteside limped to the bench and then the locker room before returned to the Heat bench in the second quarter.
But afterward, Whiteside said he was fine. He finished with 17 rebounds and nine points in 39 minutes.
"First five seconds I was extremely worried,” Whiteside said. “But as I stood up, the pain kind of went away. It bothered me throughout the game. But I'm a tough dude, so I just had to go out there and play, continue to rebound. I couldn't let my guys down."