Heat dig deep to overcome Raptors with overtime victory

TORONTO • Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was impressed with his team's mental toughness.

After Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry forced overtime by hitting a half-court, buzzer-beating three, Miami opened the extra period on an 8-0 run and hung on for a 102-96 victory on Tuesday.

The Heat took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven National Basketball Association Eastern Conference semi-final series. Game 2 is scheduled for today in Toronto.

"Kyle Lowry's three, as soon as it left his hands, I think everyone in the building kind of had an idea that it would go in," Spoelstra said. "From that point on, I was extremely proud of the group.

"To get knocked down on the canvas like that, the air punctured out of your body, to show the mental resolve to come back and take control of overtime - that's great mental toughness that I think we showed from there."

Goran Dragic had a game-high 26 points for Miami and Dwyane Wade added 24 points, six rebounds and four assists. Joe Johnson chipped in with 16 points and seven rebounds.

The Heat started the fourth quarter on a 7-2 run to build a 10-point lead. Toronto responded with a 12-4 surge to pull to within 81-83.

Dragic appeared to kill the Raptors' momentum by sinking a three-pointer with 40.6sec remaining, and Miami led by six points after Josh Richardson sank two free throws with 19sec left.

"Obviously, in the fourth quarter, with them coming back, we did a lot of things wrong that we need to correct going into the next game," said Wade, who had seven points in overtime.

Jonas Valanciunas led Toronto with 24 points and 14 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan chipped in with 22 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Terrence Ross added 19 points off the bench.

The loss drops Toronto to 1-9 in play-off series openers.

Lowry struggled all night, going 0-for-5 from three-point range before the game-tying shot. He finished 3-for-13 from the field for seven points in the loss.

Despite his struggles, the Raptors believe he will break out of the slump, which had him averaging 13.9 points per game in the opening-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

"Even though he didn't shoot the ball well, he was effective down the stretch," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "He got stuff done. I thought his bulldog tenacity set the tone for us defensively. We know he's not shooting the ball well, he's not making plays with shots that he normally makes.

"Just like a hitter (in baseball), hitters go through slumps. He's there, but we have to believe in him, we do believe in him, and he's going to come out of it."

Said DeRozan: "I tell him all the time, good or bad, I have the utmost confidence in him. I don't care if you miss 15 shots, I'm going to stand behind him just like if he's making 15 shots in a row. He'll come around."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 05, 2016, with the headline 'Heat dig deep to overcome Raptors with overtime victory'. Print Edition | Subscribe