No team in NBA history has overcome a 3-2 deficit to win a series in the playoffs more than once in the same postseason.
But if Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat are going to set up a reunion with LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals, they’re going to have to make a little history and become the first.
On Wednesday night, in spite of an Air Canada Centre crowd ready to boo Wade’s every move and another injury to a starter in its frontcourt, the Heat mounted a furious rally from a 20-point first-half deficit and had a chance to win late.
But in the end, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were just too much, lifting the Toronto Raptors to a 99-91 Game 5 victory and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference semifinal series. Now, the Heat must win Game 6 at home on Friday — possibly without Luol Deng — to stay alive.
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“Whatever it takes; we have enough,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “Luol is about as tough a competitor as I’ve ever been around. So, we’ll see. I don’t even want to jump to a conclusion right now. But look, he was out, Hassan [Whiteside’s] out, and we were still there in a possession game. So, we have enough guys that are confident in the team, in the ability to get the job done.”
Deng said he injured his left wrist when he tripped over a cameraman in the first half. The pain and swelling, however, got too tough to deal with and once doctors advised him to leave the game he did with 5:09 to play in the third quarter. X-rays performed at halftime were inconclusive, and Deng said he’s scheduled to have an MRI after the Heat flies home from Toronto on Thursday morning.
The Raptors could also be minus a starter, too. Forward DeMarre Carroll left the game for good about four minutes after Deng with a wrist contusion. The Raptors said Carroll’s X-rays were negative, but he too was scheduled to have an MRI.
Despite all that, the Heat, which trailed by that 20-point margin in the first half, still had a chance to steal the game late.
After Wade made a pair of free throws to trim Toronto’s lead to 88-87 with 1:54 to play, Lowry and DeRozan took over down the stretch. Lowry drilled a three-pointer with 52.5 seconds to go to stretch Toronto’s lead to 93-87 and then hit a pullup jumper with the shot clock winding down that answered a Wade pullup jumper.
After combining for only 19 points and missing 22 of their 28 shots in Game 4, Lowry and DeRozan had 26 by halftime on Wednesday. Lowry finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and six assists on 9-of-25 shooting, and DeRozan had 34 points on 11-of-22 shooting and four rebounds.
“They’re our guys,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We can disparage them all we want to and talk about how bad their shooting is, but again you don’t forget how to score the basketball. It’s going to come back — you hope it’s within the series. They’ve carried us all season and not one time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball. Now, they’ve got to ramp it up for the next game.”
Wade, who was booed every time he touched the basketball by the Raptors faithful for taking a little extra shooting practice during the Canadian national anthem before Game 3, led the Heat with 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes.
Early on, he was looking for something to energize the Heat’s cause. So, trailing by 17 midway through the second quarter, he exploded toward the rim, looking for that rim-rattling dunk that might wake Miami up. Instead, he found Bismack Biyombo’s left hand.
The 6-9, 255-pound Raptors center swatted Wade’s shot and then wagged his finger at the 12-time All-Star like fellow Congolese shot-blocker Dikembe Mutombo used to do to his victims.
In an Eastern Conference semifinal series devoid of both team’s starting centers, Biyombo stood tallest Wednesday night — in large part because the Heat played its three reserve centers, Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh McRoberts and Udonis Haslem, for a combined total of 31 minutes and went small for most of the game.
Biyombo finished with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks in 37 minutes, and he helped set the tone in the interior for the Raptors, who outscored the Heat 42-34 in the paint and held Miami to 44.7 percent shooting inside the paint.
“He’s high energy, high motor,” said the Heat’s Tyler Johnson, who finished with six points and four assists in 13 minutes off the bench.
“He did what he was out there to do — just play with a high motor, block a couple shots, get a couple dunks. He’s not a guy you toss the ball in there to [on offense], but he can get those garbage buckets. He kind of changed the momentum of the game.”
Goran Dragic had 13 points, five rebounds and two assists for the Heat, which once again failed to find easy baskets and had only 12 assists as a team. That’s been the trend all series against Toronto, which held Miami to 40.3 percent shooting and also forced the Heat into 15 turnovers.
The Raptors jumped all over the Heat early and led by as many as 16 points in the opening quarter.
Miami missed its first seven shots, fell behind 9-0 and didn’t score until McRoberts hit a jumper with 8:02 left in the opening quarter. Miami shuffled through three centers before it made its third field goal, a Josh Richardson layup, at the 5:38 mark.
Joe Johnson, who has struggled all series from beyond the three-point arc, finally made one from long range in the second quarter, ending his streak of misses at 14 in the series. But Johnson finished with just 11 points on 5-of-13 shooting.
Now, the Heat looks ahead to a must-win Game 6 in Miami without knowing if it will also be without Deng.
“I want to be positive,” Deng said. “We should know [more] when we get the MRI [on Thursday]. If there’s nothing serious I’ll be playing.”