It might be a coincidence or the ultimate key between the Raptors and Heat, but whichever backcourt has produced the most points has won every game in this Eastern Conference semifinal playoff series.
In Game 1 and Game 4, it was the Heat’s Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, who combined to outscore DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry 50-29 and 45-19, respectively. In Game 2, 3 and 5 it was the Raptors’ All-Star backcourt who owned the edge 38-37, 52-50 and 59-33, respectively.
Is it really just that simple? “It’s kind of easy to see — we’re much better when Kyle and DeMar are dynamic,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Friday morning before his team took the court for shootaround at AmericanAirlines Arena. “Again, there are other things you can do to help you win a game more so than just scoring.”
The Heat, desperately needing a win in Game 6 Friday night at home to avoid elimination, are sure to have slowing down Lowry and DeRozan as the No. 1 on its list of keys to victory. Not far behind that — having a banged up Luol Deng on the court to help that cause.
Deng, who badly bruised his left wrist in Game 5, has done an exceptional job guarding DeRozan in the series. According to ESPN Stats and Info, DeRozan is shooting 31.4 percent when guarded by Deng and 42.6 percent when he has been guarded by others in the series.
In Game 5 alone, DeRozan scored 13 of his 34 points in the fourth quarter. That’s after Deng had left the game late in the third quarter.
“He’s an active player,” Casey said of Deng. “He does a good job of getting into [DeRozan’s] space, using his length. I thought we did a better job screening him, setting good solid screens on him in Game 5. Deng’s a handful defensively for anybody, whoever he switches off on. I don’t know if he’s doing anything extra special, but I know we did a better job getting him screen and DeMar was decisive in what he did.”
Although the Heat was still listing Deng as questionable Friday, even after he participated in the team’s morning’s walk-through, his teammates said they were expecting him to play.
“Lu is a warrior,” Dragic said. “I was texting him last night and as soon as we landed I told him to keep me posted on how the MRI was going to go. I was really happy to find out it’s not fractured. He’s a warrior. He already told me before that on the plane that if it’s not broken then I’m going to play. He’s a big part of this team, and I love having him on the floor. He gives us that stability on defense.”
Another key for the Heat: getting off to a better start than it did in Game 5.
Miami trailed 9-0 and then 26-10 early in the first quarter. Spoelstra said his team is well aware it can’t fall behind that much again.
“That’s a big part of it,” Spoelstra said. “We paid the price the other night and it was pretty even for three quarters. But that first quarter was rough. We were inefficient. They got off to a monster start and we weren’t able to overcome that. Our guys understand that.”
▪ Casey said Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll (bruised left wrist) remains a game-time decision, but like Deng his teammates were convinced Carroll would play Friday.