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Raptors edge Miami to take 2-1 series lead

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Dwyane Wade’s 38 points were not enough to keep the Toronto Raptors from regaining control of their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series. The Raptors came from behind to take a 95-91 victory at American Airlines on Saturday to take a 2-1 lead.

Wade scored 29 of his 38 points in the second half, but none of his teammates scored more than six during that period. Kyle Lowry, who struggled with his shot throughout the playoffs, found his stroke for Toronto and poured in 33 points on 11 of 19 shooting. Many came at the most opportune moments for the Raptors.

Compounding Miami’s problem was the loss or rim protector Hassan Whiteside. The shot blocking specialist played only eight minutes before departing with a knee injury. The severity is not yet known.

The Miami offense struggled from the beginning. Toronto took a 23-19 lead after the first period. The Heat briefly led 32-31 on a Joe Johnson jumper, but the Raptors quickly responded and took a 49-40 halftime lead.

Lowry’s three-pointer with 9:45 left in the third quarter gave Toronto their biggest lead at 55-42. Wade nailed a three with 3:53 remaining that ignited a 14-4 Miami run that brought them into a 68-68 tie heading into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors did not score again until three and a half minutes had elapsed in the fourth quarter with Miami holding a 74-68 lead. Lowry’s three-pointer with 5:15 remaining gave the Raptors the lead again at 80-78. He broke a tie with 2:06 remaining when he drilled another three.

Miami would come within a point in the final minute, but never regained the lead. Despite Wade’s best efforts, Lowry always had an answer. Lowry, like Wade, also had 29 points in the second half.

“Last game I was aggressive, but I didn’t make as many shots,” said Lowry. “I felt good. It was a good win, but we’re not done yet.”

DeMar DeRozan 19 points and five assists for Toronto while big man Jonas Valanciunas had 16 points and 12 rebounds in only 22 minutes of action. He tweaked his ankle in the second half.

Goran Dragic had 12 points for Miami, but made only five of 14 shots. Luol Deng was held to only four points in 39 minutes. The Heat shot only 43 percent, including four of 18 from behind the three point arc.

Game 4 is Monday night from American Airlines Arena. Miami knows it is a must-win game.

 

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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