When the Miami HEAT needed someone to go to in Game 7 against the Charlotte Hornets, Goran Dragic stepped up and led his team to victory. With the HEAT trailing by two points at halftime against the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 on Tuesday night, it was Dragic who stepped up again.
Dragic scored 10 of his 26 points in the third quarter and led the HEAT to a 102-96 win over the Raptors in overtime to take a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Dragic added six rebounds and two assists to go along with his 26 points, while shooting 10-of-20 from the floor.
The loss drops the Raptors’ record to 1-9 all-time in Game 1 situations, including losses in each of their last seven games. Toronto entered this series having won three out of four games against the HEAT during the regular season.
The HEAT took a five-point lead into the third quarter, and eventually increased their lead to as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter. Shortly after building the lead to 10 points, the Raptors went on a 12-4 run to cut the HEAT lead to two points with 1:03 left in the game.
Miami’s lead jumped back up to six points with 19.2 seconds to go, but Terrence Ross hit a three-pointer to bring the game to within three points. Luol Deng committed a bad pass off of the inbounds play and Ross was fouled with 4.1 seconds left. Ross made one free throw to cut the lead to 89-87.
Hassan Whiteside was fouled and made only one free throw to make it a three-point game with 3.3 seconds left. Kyle Lowry ran the ball up the court and nailed a half-court shot just as time expired to send the game to overtime. Tuesday night’s Game 1 was only the second overtime playoff game in Raptors history.
Despite heading into overtime with the momentum of Lowry’s desperation shot, the Raptors fell flat in the period as they wouldn’t record their first points until 1:14 to go. Toronto missed their first three shots to open up overtime, while the HEAT scored the first eight points in the period.
Dwyane Wade came up with several huge plays for the HEAT in the second half. He recorded two key blocks in the fourth quarter and two key steals in overtime. He scored seven of his 24 points during the overtime period.
Miami continued their dominance on the glass after out-rebounding the Raptors 52-41, including an 11-4 advantage on the offensive side of the ball. Whiteside pulled down 17 total rebounds in the contest, while also scoring nine points in 39 minutes of work.
There was a scary moment for Whiteside in the first quarter after he appeared to slip on the court and land awkwardly on his right knee. Whiteside would leave the game and head back to the locker room, but would later return after the team announced that he had a right knee strain. He looked to return without limitations after the incident.
Jonas Valanciunas paced the Raptors with 24 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. DeMar DeRozan scored 22 points and Terrence Ross added 19 points off of the bench. Despite hitting the shot to send the game to overtime, Lowry struggled for much of the game after scoring just seven points on 3-of-13 shooting from the field. He didn’t make his first shot until the 7:18 mark of the third quarter.
HEAT head coach Erik Spoelstra will almost certainly have a talk with his team after nearly blowing the game late. The HEAT committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter that led to 10 points for the Raptors, which aided their comeback.
Toronto will need to continue to receive huge games from DeRozan and Valanciunas, but they’ll also need Lowry to get it going to have a chance to get back on track in the series. Game 2 is scheduled for Thursday at 8 p.m. EST.
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