Dragic, Wade lead Heat past Raptors 103-91 and into Game 7

 14 May 2016 - 11:37

Dragic, Wade lead Heat past Raptors 103-91 and into Game 7
Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic of Slovenia reacts against the Toronto Raptors during game six of their NBA Eastern Conference semifinals basketball game at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida, USA, 13 May 2016. (EPA / RHONA WISE)

 

By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI: The Miami Heat went small, and came up big.

With that, another Game 7 awaits.

Goran Dragic scored a postseason career-high 30 points and Dwyane Wade added 22 as the Heat rode a small lineup to a 103-91 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, tying their Eastern Conference semifinal series 3-3.

"Last year at this time we were all on vacation," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said. "So often in this business people tend to want to search for the easy route. There's usually not an easy way in a seven-game series, certainly not with a second and third seed going against each other. This is the path ... and now we've pushed it to a Game 7."

It comes Sunday in Toronto. The winner will head to Cleveland for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night. Both the Heat and the Raptors won a Game 7 in the first round.

Kyle Lowry scored 36 points for Toronto, on 12-for-27 shooting. DeMar DeRozan added 23 for the Raptors, but their teammates combined to shoot 14 of 34 from the floor and manage 32 points.

"We came here to try to win the game," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "We didn't come here with a seven-game series in mind. It's been a great series, they're a championship-caliber team, well-coached team, but we came in here to try to win the game."

Joe Johnson had 13 points, Justise Winslow added 12, and Josh McRoberts scored 10 for the Heat.

Dragic shot 12 of 21, Wade blocked a game-high three shots and the Heat — despite some serious size deficiencies with injured starting center Hassan Whiteside still out — only lost the rebounding battle 43-41.

"I knew (Dragic) was going to have an amazing performance tonight," Wade said. "You could tell he was on the brink of one."

Neither team divulged its starting lineup until warmups were under way. The Heat had reason for subterfuge, after choosing a super-small starting five of Dragic, Wade, Johnson, Luol Deng and Winslow.

Desperation? Maybe.

The results? Splendid.

The Heat used eight players — the tallest being McRoberts, at 6-foot-10. The average height of the others was just under 6-6.

Deng jumped center and Winslow got his first playoff start, three games after sitting out Game 3 entirely. The Heat like using the term "positionless basketball" and Winslow epitomized it early — in a 60-second span, the rookie guarded Raptors center Bismack Biyombo, brought the ball up like a point guard and made a corner 3.

"Justise did an amazing job," Dragic said.

Whiteside, watching from the locker room, was thrilled.

"The guys played really well," said Whiteside, who will fly with the Heat to Toronto but said he would not play Sunday. "Goran got in the paint a lot and made it tough on their guys and D-Wade did D-Wade stuff."

Dragic scored 14 in the second quarter, helping Miami take a 53-44 lead at the half. The lead got to 13 in the third, Dragic again coming up big with a three-point play followed by a jumper. And when Toronto got within six early in the fourth, Dragic and Wade scored the next six points to keep Miami in control.

Miami is 6-3 all-time in Game 7s, having won four straight ultimate games (0-1 on the road). Toronto is 1-2 in Game 7s, 1-1 at home.

AP