NBA 

Dragic’s Strong Effort Extends the Heat’s Season

 

Facing elimination for the second straight playoff series, the Miami Heat were able to muster up enough of a collective fight to defeat the Toronto Raptors, 103-91.

Prior to the game, Coach Erik Spoelstra made an unconventional adjustment to the starting lineup, inserting rookie Justise Winslow into the starting lineup as the starting center, in a hope to free up driving lanes.

The strategy worked, as the Heat scored 100 points for only the third time in these playoffs and the first since game 1 in Toronto.

Goran Dragic led the way, as he scored a team-high and playoff career-high 30 points. The Slovenian lead guard was the best player on the floor for the Heat, boasting a +25 plus-minus rating and pulling down 7 rebounds. His commitment to pushing the pace on the fast break got his teammates easier shots that was crucial in escaping the offensive “mud” the team had been in against the Raptors.

Dwyane Wade added well-rounded production, scoring 22 points, pulling down 6 rebounds, and dishing out 5 assists. After shooting 37% during the series, Joe Johnson was able to shake his struggles, pouring in 12 points of his own on 50% shooting. He even hit a 3-pointer, after shooting a putrid 6% from 3-point range prior to Game 6.

It was imperative that the Heat got contribution from role players and that’s exactly what happened last night. Tyler Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Josh McRoberts scored 24 points off the bench and made key defensive plays all night. Justise Winslow was able to hold his own down low and hit the open shots he received.

The Raptors again received great production from the backcourt, but this time, it wasn’t good enough. While Lowry and DeRozan combined for 59 points, the role players did not produce enough. Being on the road was the likely cause, as those players did not bring the same energy they had in game 5. Going forward, the Raptor’s players outside of Lowry and Derozan must contribute more.

The Raptors team as a whole only shot 25% from beyond the arc, limiting any chance at making a comeback. Especially on a night when the Heat players had their offense going.

Expect Dwayne Casey and his staff to make  adjustments to combat Miami’s ultra small ball lineup. Will they go small as a team, or simply respond with a more feisty defensive effort? We shall soon see.

Game 7 will be on Sunday at 3:30 P.M. Est. on ABC. The winner will go on to face the well rested Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday.

 

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