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Heat on brink of elimination after loss to Raptors

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The Toronto Raptors are just one win away from the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. On the other side, the Miami Heat is one loss away from the end of their season.

The Raptors led from start to finish, but had to hold on for a 99-91 victory on Wednesday night in Toronto to take a 3-2 lead in their semifinal series with the Heat. A 19-point lead melted to one in the fourth quarter, but the Raptors made enough big plays to stave off the Miami charge.

Toronto scored the first nine points of the game, built the lead to 16, and then ended the first quarter with a 28-18 lead. A 16-4 second quarter run extended the margin to 53-34, but the Heat cut the margin to 55-45 at halftime.

Neither team made a serious run in the third quarter. Toronto took a 75-62 advantage into the fourth quarter.

With the score 82-71, Josh Richardson swished a three-pointer to cut the margin to eight with 7:56 remaining. Just 28 seconds later, he hit another to trim the lead to 84-77.

Two free throws by Dwyane Wade brought Miami to within 88-87 with 1:54 left. Kyle Lowry, who has had his struggles during the playoffs, drilled a long three-pointer with 52 seconds left to give the Raptors a 93-87 advantage.

Miami was not able to recover.

Wade again led the Heat in scoring with 20 points, while Goran Dragic added 13. For Toronto, their outstanding guard tandem of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan finally exploded. DeRozan scored 34 points while Lowry had a double-double with 25 points, ten rebounds, six assists and three steals.

Still missing is center Hassan Whiteside, who is nursing a knee injury. It is not known if he will be available for Game 6.

The Heat will try to stay alive on Friday when they host Game 6 at American Airlines Arena. Miami has won their last five playoff home games when facing elimination.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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