Queasiness, Anxiety and Overwhelming Jubilation: The Ride That Was Game 1
It isn’t truly the NBA playoffs until a game ends with you experiencing a mixture of queasiness, exhaustion, heart palpitations, anxiety, frustration and overwhelming jubilation.
Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals triggered all of these emotions for Miami Heat fans everywhere. There were so many different negatives and positives in Miami’s 102-96 overtime win over the Toronto Raptors, that it’s hard not to come away with a strong sense of confusion. I am no exception to this.
I typically live my life in a constant state of confusion anyway, and this game only intensified that problem. The words I am typing are flowing from an exhausted mind filled with scattered thoughts of final exams, basketball, and Hamilton: An American Musical.
I won’t pretend to be a basketball expert. I won’t even pretend to have a reliable memory of the game I just finished watching (I’m pretty sure I blacked out from stress midway through the fourth quarter). What I will do tonight is attempt to make sense of a basketball game that made no sense. That is all I am capable of. That is all I am willing to do.
The story of Miami’s ride to a Game 1 victory begins with Goran Dragic. I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say Dragic was the entire Miami Heat offense for significant stretches of the game.
After a cold start to the first quarter, Dragic regained the magic he found in his last game, finishing with 26 points, six rebounds, and three triples.
— NBA.com/Stats (@nbastats) May 4, 2016
He led the team in plus/minus with plus-13 and his 41 minutes of excellent play was arguably the main reason Miami was able to build and maintain a lead in the second half.
In a game where neither team was able to find any sort of consistent offense, the “Dragon 🐲” caught fire and carried the Heat with a mixture of fire breath, strong transition lay-ups and Eastern European sorcery. If Dragic is able to sustain his recent level of play, you can say “deuces” to the Toronto Raptors.
While Dragic was the hero Miami needed in regulation, there would have been no win without the late-game heroics of his buddy in the backcourt. Father Prime. Three. WoW. Flash. Chef. Pookie (look it up). Whatever nickname you know him by, Dwyane Wade came through in the clutch for Miami like he has since he arrived in 2003.
Wade helped Miami fend off Toronto’s late-game comeback attempt with two impressive blocks in the fourth quarter and when the game went to overtime, the NBA legend did what NBA legends do. He singlehandedly outscored the Raptors in overtime, delivering seven of Miami’s 12 points to go along with two late steals to help ice the game.
Overall, Wade finished with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals, two blocks, and one beautiful 3-pointer. This is not the first time Dwyane Wade has saved Miami in these playoffs and I have a feeling it won’t be the last time, either.
While Dragic and Wade were definitely the main stories of the game, there were many other things in Game 1 that are worth mentioning. After suffering a knee sprain early in the first quarter, Hassan Whiteside continued to battle and finished with 17 rebounds. The injury seemed to severely limit Hassan’s athleticism as he was unable to rise up to contest shots with the same breathtaking vertical he usually displays.
If Whiteside’s knee continues to bother him, it could put Miami at a significant disadvantage at the center position with a highly talented Jonas Valanciunas on the other side of the ball.
For the Raptors, they seemed to continue the same poor level of play that allowed the seventh-seeded Indiana Pacers push them to seven games in the first round. Despite his game-tying half-court heave at the end of regulation, star point guard Kyle Lowry turned in yet another disappointing playoff performance finishing with seven points on 3 of 13 shooting.
Toronto’s other all-star, DeMar DeRozan, put up 22 points on 9 of 22 shooting but struggled immensely for a large portion of the game.
In the playoffs, Lowry+DeRozan are shooting 11/68 on 3s, for an expected payoff of 0.49 points per shot. A Drummond FT trip? 0.7 points.
— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 4, 2016
The Raptors received contributions from Valanciunas who recorded 24 points and 14 boards and Terrence Ross who dropped 19 points, but as a team, they failed to play at the level that earned them the second seed in the East.
Despite Whiteside’s injury, Miami was able to out rebound Toronto by 11, controlling the glass all game. The Raptors also struggled to hit the 3-point shot with any consistency, shooting 23.8 percent on their 21 attempts. These shooting woes have plagued Toronto all playoffs, and they are now shooting 27.8 percent from beyond the arc in the postseason as opposed to their regular season clip of 37 percent.
If the Raptors continue to struggle from 3-point range they’re not going to have an easy road ahead. Making 3-pointers is good because it’s more points, and more points are good.
If I were Coach Dwane Casey (what a ridiculous way to spell “Dwyane”), I would tell my team to make more 3-pointers, but I’m no expert (see first paragraph).
In the end, Miami looked like the better team in multiple areas of the game, but if the Raptors can get something going on offense, it will be a long series.