(The Sports Xchange) – The Toronto Raptors All Star guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have come in for criticism for not living up to their status during the playoffs but both stifled the talk on Wednesday.
DeRozan, who has been playing with a sore thumb, scored 34 points and Lowry added 25 as the Raptors defeated the Miami Heat 99-91 to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-final series.
As each went through shooting slumps, Raptors coach Dwane Casey stayed with them even as the criticism mounted. The difference in DeRozan, he said, was that the shooting guard was “decisive” in his play.
“They’re our guys, we can disparage them all we want to, and talk about their shooting is” Casey said. “But again you don’t forget how to score the basketball.
“It’s going to come back, when, you hope it’s within the series. But it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season.
“Not one time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball, nor did their teammates.”
The Raptors surged at the start and led by as many as 16 points in the first quarter and were ahead by 20 in the second quarter before the Heat began chipping away at their deficit.
The Raptors took a 13-point lead into the fourth quarter, and Miami reduced it to five with just under five minutes to play.
“Even though we played so poorly in the first half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just had a feeling the game was going to come down to a possession game at the end. It did and they made more plays.
“They got some extra possessions offensively and got to the line and made some big shots down the stretch. We weren’t able to get over that hump. We felt we were going to be able to once we got it to one … but we weren’t able to.”
That one-point margin was reached when guard Dwyane Wade, who had a team-high 20 points for Miami, converted two free throws with 1:54 to play.
DeRozan made two free throws with 1:33 left, and Toronto led by three points.
Miami turned the ball over on their next possession, and Lowry, who added 10 rebounds and six assists, hit a 3-pointer with 52.5 seconds to play to give Toronto a 93-87 edge.
Wade’s shot cut the lead to four before Lowry answered with a jumper to restore the six-point lead with 23.7 seconds remaining.
A goaltending call on Wade’s shot with 21.7 seconds to go moved Miami within four points.
DeRozan made two free throws with 21.3 seconds left and made two more with nine seconds remaining to increase the lead to eight points and clinch the win.
“We’re just trying to go out there and be aggressive,” DeRozan said “We were aggressive in these two series and the shots just weren’t dropping,”
Asked how his thumb felt, DeRozan said, “It felt like a blowtorch was on my hand. It’s just something I have to deal with. Just have to play through as best I can and deal with it later.”
“They made shots,” Wade said. “They’re All-Star players. They’re going to get going at some point. … DeMar was locked in all night. Those guys are good players. They’re going to make shots.
“That wasn’t what beat us. Just a slow start for us. Getting down big early, down 10 at the end of the first, from then we played great basketball.”
Bismack Biyombo added 10 points and six rebounds for Toronto.
Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson each added 13 points for the Heat, and Joe Johnson added 11 points and eight rebounds.
The Raptors took a 16-point lead during the first quarter. With DeRozan scoring 10 points and Lowry adding nine, Toronto led 28-18. The Heat shot 27 percent from the field in the period, and Toronto shot 40 percent.
“We were able to get out and some easy points in the transition off our defense,” Casey said. “It was the difference to start the game, kind of set the tone for us a little bit,”
The Heat crept to within eight points of the Raptors, but when Lowry made a driving reverse layup with 3:39 to play in the half, Toronto led by 20. The Heat then reeled off 10 straight points, six by Dragic. Toronto led 55-45 at the half.
Raptors forward DeMarre Carroll was helped off the court with an injury with 1:16 to play in the third quarter after crashing to the floor beneath Toronto’s offensive basket.
Carroll, who had six points, six rebounds and four personal fouls in 26 minutes, did not return because of a contusion on his left hand. Casey said X-rays were negative.
Heat forward Luol Deng, who had four points, left the game in the second half with a wrist injury. Spoelstra did not know the extent of the injury. He said it was X-rayed and that there would be an MRI yesterday.