At this point, the Toronto Raptors will go as far as DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will take them. In game 5 of their playoff series with the Miami Heat, they both finally showed up at the same time.
No Jonas Valanciunas, and no DeMarre Carroll, who left during the game with a left wrist injury, that isn’t too serious, probably. This means very limited options for a team that’s been struggling offensively all postseason long. Turns out, Lowry and DeRozan can have a game in which they both shine. DeRozan scored 34 points on 11-for-22 shooting while hitting 11-for-11 from the line, without a doubt his best performance of these playoffs.
Lowry was just 9-for-25 (which is actually better than his field goal percentage in these playoffs), but his four three pointers meant his eFG% was above .500. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals. The Raptors were winning by 25 points during his minutes on the floor. It’s safe to say he did good by his teammates, helping putting Toronto one win away from the franchise’s first ever conference finals appearance, in what is already the best season in the history of the club.
The Heat lost Luol Deng during the game to the same injury Carroll was taken out for. Deng was having a rough night overall, shooting just 0-for-8, scoring only 4 points before leaving. The Heat got a lot from their bench and managed to erase a big Toronto lead, making things interesting in the end. However, with both Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic having subpar offensive performances, the Heat couldn’t really get over the hump. And that’s where they are right now: What Deng or Joe Johnson can give them has its limits. Like the Raptors, it’s all about what their backcourt produces, and it wouldn’t surprise me that the two have logged too many minutes over the last month or so, and it’s showing.
Obviously, things can be different in Miami. Whiteside might be back any day and players like Gerald Green and Josh Richardson (who did score 13 points) can go off under the right conditions. But when it comes down to it, if this is really a matchup between backcourts and nothing else, the Raptors can feel comfortable about where they’re at. Consistency hasn’t been part of the vocabulary this postseason, but signs are pointing towards their struggling All-Star duo finally figuring out who to be productive together, which is bad news for Miami.