Dwyane Wade turned back the clock and tried to lift the Heat above it all Saturday — the loss of Hassan Whiteside, a 13-point, third-quarter deficit and a suddenly red-hot Kyle Lowry.
In the end, it was Lowry who was too much for Wade and the Heat.
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Toronto’s All-Star point guard — in the midst of one of the worst shooting slumps ever in the playoffs — found his stroke in the second half, scoring 29 of his 33 points over the final two quarters to outduel the 38 provided from Wade and lead the Raptors to a 95-91 victory in Game 3 at AmericanAirlines Arena.
But that might not be the toughest pill for Heat fans to swallow.
Whiteside injured his right knee, and his status moving forward in the playoffs is up in the air. Though X-rays on his knee were negative, the Heat’s starting center, who finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, is scheduled to have an MRI on Sunday. He walked out of the arena on Saturday with his right leg in a soft cast.
“My knee went two different ways,” said Whiteside, who estimated the pain in his knee at a seven on a scale from 1 to 10. “I’m just going to pray on it and take it from there.”
Whiteside was fighting for rebounding position in the paint with Lowry on a Gerald Green missed jump shot when he was injured with 10:55 left in the first half. Lowry was pulling down on Whiteside’s left arm, and as the 7-footer was falling to the court, teammate Luol Deng became entangled with Whiteside’s legs as Deng came charging toward the basket.
Whiteside, who had been dealing with a bruised right thigh since Game 3 of the first round series against Charlotte and a right knee strain after he slipped on a wet spot on the court in Game 1 against Toronto, said he thought Lowry “dove or fell into my knee and pushed it in.”
Lowry ended up sticking the knife into the Heat later.
After scoring just four points on 2-of-6 shooting over the first two quarters, he exploded in the second half and scored seven clutch points down the stretch including the go-ahead three-pointer that broke an 82-82 tie with 2:20 left.
The Raptors led by as many as 13 points with 9:46 to play in the third quarter before Wade started the Heat’s comeback.
After he hit both free throws on the foul that sent Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas back to the locker room, Wade followed up his own missed jumper with a dunk and then hit back-to-back three pointers to trim the Raptors’ lead to 64-60 with 3:25 to play in the quarter. His pull-up jumper with 22.6 seconds left in the quarter then tied the score at 68 heading to the fourth.
But it was too much Lowry in the end.
“We needed Kyle to be Kyle tonight,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said.
Said Lowry: “I felt like the shot was there last game to be honest. I felt it was just a matter of time for the shots to go in.”
Joe Johnson missed a three-pointer that would have tied the score at 91 with 16.9 seconds to play. He is now 0 for 10 from three-point range in the series.
“It’s nothing they’re doing defensively,” he said. “I’ve just got to make a shot. Obviously, I haven’t made a three in the series. But I’ll be all right.”
Wade made all four three-pointers for the Heat in the game. Miami finished 4 of 18 from beyond the arc.
“We got some good looks. That’s all you can ask for,” Wade said. “Obviously, we got our turnovers down to nine. We won the rebound battle. But they shot the ball very well. I can’t say it was a lack of focus on the defensive end of the floor. You have to give those guys credit. They made shots.”
The Raptors lost center Valanciunas to a sprained his right ankle with 8:53 to play in the third quarter when he attempted to block a Wade shot as he drove to the basket, fouled Wade and then landed awkwardly.
So both teams were without their staring centers for most of the second half.
Afterward, though, Casey sounded more optimistic than Spoelstra that he would have his starting center back.
“With him it is nothing broken, nothing structural,” Casey said. “So we’ll see what happens.”
The Heat played reserve Udonis Haslem for a season-high 24 minutes in Whiteside’s absence and rotated Josh McRoberts and Amar’e Stoudemire in as well. Somehow, Miami still won the rebounding battle 38-35 and outscored Toronto 38-30 in the paint.
But that means little now.
“No one can be Hassan Whiteside,” Wade said. “So if we’re without him, we’ve got to have confidence in UD, Amar’e and Josh that they can do what they do — because it’s totally different than what Hassan does. Guys just have to step up in a different way.”