MIAMI – With no Jonas Valanciunas and virtually no DeMar DeRozan, the last thing the Toronto Raptors needed was to lose Kyle Lowry.
But Lowry had to watch from the bench after fouling out as the Raptors dropped a 94-87 decision to the Miami Heat in overtime on Monday, that evened the Eastern Conference semifinals at two wins apiece.
And moments after the loss, the Raptors point guard took the blame squarely on himself.
“I can’t be in foul trouble, I think I let my team down tonight,” Lowry said. “I take the loss for us, because me not being out there on the floor hurt our team.”
Dwyane Wade poured in 30 points, including an emphatic dunk to end overtime, to lead the Heat.
READ MORE: Raptors’ centre Valanciunas out for rest of Heat series with sprained ankle
Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph had 14 points apiece for Toronto, which is without starting centre Valanciunas for the remainder of this series. Bismack Biyombo had 13 points and 13 rebounds, while DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 13 points.
As big a blow as the loss of Valanciunas is, DeRozan’s thumb injury led to one of his worst games as a Raptor. He shot just 4-for-17 for nine points, and he and Lowry, who had 10 points before fouling out with 1:58 to play, shot a combined 6-for-28 on the night.
“It’s the feeling of being uncomfortable, and not doing the things that you normally do with gripping the ball and everything,” said DeRozan, who jammed his right thumb late in Game 1. “I think the missed layup (in the first quarter) showed me how much I have to deal with it, but it’s nothing I’ll ever make an excuse about.”
For the third time in this roller-coaster series, that has felt more like a heavyweight fight at times, the game needed overtime to decide a winner.
And it was an ugly one. With a mish-mash of lineups, the Raptors looked headed for a blowout loss with their 29 per cent scoring in the first half. But they opened the third quarter with a 17-4 run and took a 62-60 lead into the fourth quarter. Ross drilled two threes to put Toronto up by nine points with six-and-a-half minutes on the clock.
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Wade promptly led a comeback that would pull the Heat within two points with just over a minute to play. Then with 12.6 seconds on the clock, the Heat star drove to the hoop, and his basket sent the game into extra time.
“You have two competitive teams that are going and close to equal talent-wise,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “These are two tough-minded teams.”
With Lowry on the bench, the Raptors could do nothing right in OT. Joseph and DeRozan scored the team’s only baskets, and Wade swiped a Raptors turnover in the final seconds for a dunk that sealed the Heat’s victory.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that this game was going to go into overtime,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “It’s just one heck of a series. Both teams, players are going after it. This series is complex, it’s changing fast.”
The Raptors shot just 40 per cent on the night, while the Heat weren’t much better at 44 per cent. Each team grabbed 27 rebounds.
Now the series heads back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday, and returns to Miami for Game 6.
READ MORE: Heat guard Dwyane Wade warms up during ‘O Canada’, Canadians unimpressed
Asked if stealing one of the two games in Miami was any consolation, Lowry answered with a definitive “no.”
“Personally I’m pissed,” he said. “I think we wanted to come down here and get two, and we had the opportunity. But we’re going to look at the positives, we’re 2-2, best of three and we’ve got two at home.”
With Valanciunas out for the series with a sprained ankle from Game 3, the Raptors have to hope DeRozan and Lowry can rediscover their shooting touch.
“When our two top players don’t shoot the ball as well, and we had some turnovers down the stretch, I felt like we let the game slip away,” Casey said. “That is on all of us.”
Biyombo had a decent night in place of Valanciunas, and made his presence felt early in the game when he soared over Amar’e Stoudemire for a monstrous dunk, then flexed his massive biceps in celebration.
The Heat are also without starting centre Hassan Whiteside, who sprained his medial collateral ligament in his knee on Saturday.
Wade, meanwhile, apologized for his behaviour during “O Canada” in Game 3. Wade sparked a social media firestorm for shooting baskets during the anthem, but corrected himself by being the first to line up for the anthems on Monday.
“I apologize for Canada thinking I would disrespect their country,” Wade said. “I have so much respect for the Toronto Raptors, I have so much respect for the country of Canada.”
Small pockets of Raptors fans, including Montreal Canadiens star P.K. Subban, who sat courtside, dotted an American Airlines Arena that was otherwise a sea of Miami white. Several fans were shown on the Jumbotron in “We The South” T-shirts.
Biyombo had seven points in a first quarter that saw the Raptors shoot just 37 per cent, and Miami took a 25-21 lead into the second.
A Carroll three-pointer tied the game at 35-35, but the Heat hit back with a 9-0 run to take a 44-35 lead into halftime.