For the second consecutive playoff series, the Heat finds itself down 3-2, but this time, in much worse shape physically than a series ago.
Already without Chris Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, the Heat lost Luol Deng in the third quarter with a wrist injury, with X-rays inconclusive. So the Heat finished tonight's 99-91 Game 5 loss without its entire starting frontcourt to begin the season.
Deng injured his wrist when he braced his fall after colliding with a cameraman. He will get an MRI when the team returns to Miami Thursday afternoon.
"If there's nothing serious, I'll be playing," Deng told reporters in the locker-room afterward, via Fox Sports Sun. "Right now, it's just about being sure. I just got to know what it is.... The swelling got worse. It happened in the first half. It was just painful in the second half. I was going to go back out there and play, but [the doctor] thought [to sit out] just to be safe."
Deng's injury means the Heat played the entire fourth quarter with all small forwards and guards, something it had not done a single minute during the regular season. Miami used at least three lineups that had never played together before. Justise Winslow was essentially the Heat's center in the fourth quarter.
Dwyane Wade (20 points) did some damage late; Goran Dragic (13 points) fueled a late first-half 10-0 run that cut a 20-point deficit to 10; Josh Richardson (13 points) had some good moments and Winslow had 8 points and 7 boards.
But there wasn't nearly enough, with Deng shooting 0 for 8 before his injury, and Joe Johnson 5 for 13 on an 11-point night.
Toronto's best players finally came alive, DeMar DeRozan scoring 34 (on unusually efficient 11 for 22 shooting) and Kyle Lowry scoring 25 and coming up big late to offset another subpar shooting night (9 for 25). DeRozan and Lowry combined to score 20 of Toronto's 24 points in the fourth.
The Heat closed at 40.3 percent from the field and had fewer assists (12) than turnovers (13).... Beyond the Deng injury, Toronto lost DeMarre Carroll to a left hand contusion.
• Teams that win Game 5 of a 2-2 series have won 82 percent of those series in NBA history. Of course, that did Charlotte no good when it went up 3-2 on Miami in Round 1. But according to ESPN, no team has come back to win two series that it trailed 3-2 in a single postseason. The Heat is trying to become the first...
Game 6 is 8 p.m. Friday on ESPN. Game 7, if needed, would be 3:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC.
Some postgame reaction:
• Erik Spoelstra: "Neither team played like this during the regular season. It's coming down to how efficient you can be with your offense.... Even though we played so poorly in the first half, you figured it would come down to a possession... down the stretch.
"We couldn't get over that hump. We felt we would be able to when we got it to one. I don't know if the offense is going to trend better for either team right now. We really felt like we were able to get the job done and we didn't and you have to give them credit."
On playing a small lineup, Spoelstra said: "You saw the block outs. We're putting bodies on them. We're being thrown around. They were able to get some important extra possessions. We had some advantages the other way. That's the give and take of it."
• Wade: "It was very unfortunate [with injuries]. I don't know what happened with Luol yet.... We lost two big guys in this series so far. Injuries are the worst part of the game; it changes so much the outlook of your team. A lot of things happen just by the game being physical. Hopefully, Luol is with us [for Game 6]. If he's not, the next guy has to step up.
"[DeRozan and Lowry] made shots. They're All-Star players. They're going to get going at some point. DeMar was locked in all night. That wasn't what beat us. Just a slow start for us, down 17 early.... From there, we played great basketball. Every time it seemed like they were going to pull away, we kept fighting. Cut it to one."
• Toronto coach Dwane Casey: Miami "is a prideful team, very good defensive team, physical team. You're not going to get anything easy in the halfcourt.... Patrick Patterson is doing a good job staying in front of Joe Johnson, allowing us to stay big. Bismack's foot speed allowed us to stay big [against a small Heat lineup]."
Some Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday night:
• The more we hear about junior-to-be Brad Kaaya’s draft stock, the more we wonder whether UM will be able to hold onto him for his senior season.
Last week, ESPN's Todd McShay projected Kaaya as the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft, behind Clemson QB DeShaun Watson. And today, Mel Kiper ranked him as the 13th-best prospect (among juniors and seniors) in the 2017 draft.
“Listed at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, Kaaya will have to bulk up to withstand the pounding in the NFL, but he's a tough competitor,” McShay said on ESPN.com. “You can tell watching him play that he's very smart and processes information quickly. He has the tools to develop and shows good touch/timing as a passer.”
Kiper, on Kaaya: “Anther player certain to be dissected, based on the mountain of tape he has already piled up, having thrown almost 800 passes, when many juniors are about to start for the first time. Kaaya is a talented QB with a big arm, touch and growing poise as he reads the whole field. He continues to get better.”
Kiper, like McShay, also ranks Kaaya as the No. 2 QB prospect eligible for the 2017 draft, behind Watson.
Kiper’s top 12 prospects, via ESPN.com: 1) Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett; 2) Alabama outside linebacker Tim Williams; 3) LSU running back Leonard Fournette; 4) Watson; 5) LSU safety Jamal Adams; 6) Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell; 7) Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson; 8) UF cornerback Jalen Tabor; 9) Michigan safety/linebacker Jabrill Peppers; 10) FSU offensive tackle Roderick Johnson; 11) USC cornerback Adoree’ Jackson and 12) Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen.
• UM keeps making progress on financing for an indoor football practice facility, which is a top priority, and it’s looking likely to happen. One trustee said there have been very positive meetings with interested donors recently, and cracked that having your name on a practice site can be real incentive for some wealthy people.
“That’s something I’m confident we’ll make happen in the very near future,” UM athletic director Blake James said last week.
And he went a step further at the ACC meetings in Amelia Island today, telling the Palm Beach Post’s Matt Porter: "I think we’re real close. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from people. We haven’t finalized the numbers, but I think we’ll be making some announcements real soon.”
James has said building an indoor practice facility likely will cost north of $20 million. It’s essential, because more than 20 practices were delayed or canceled by weather last season.
• Jacksonville-based safety Ahman Ross’ decision to decommit from UM last night leaves the Hurricanes with 14 oral commitments for 2017, including three defensive backs: Orange Park-based Nick Roberts (rated the No. 32 cornerback by Rivals), Southridge safety Billy Gibson (talked to two recruiting analysts who raved about him) and Columbus’ Christopher Henderson (a receiver/running back in high school who has the speed to move to cornerback in college).
• Privately, members of the former UM coaching staff were convinced some Southeastern Conference schools were cheating and bemoaned how difficult it was for them to recruit against that. So they couldn’t have been surprised when Dolphins first-round pick Laremy Tunsil admitted on draft night that he took money from a coach at Mississippi.
• As colleague Michelle Kaufman reported on Twitter today, five-star point guard Derryck Thornton (who’s transferring from Duke) plans to visit UM this weekend, with Kansas, Washington and USC also on his list.
Thornton played in all 36 games for Duke as a freshman this past season, starting 20. But he didn’t start any games in the ACC Tournament or NCAA Tournament despite being the only available pure point guard on the roster.
Thornton, who averaged 7.1 points and 2.6 assists as a freshman, said previously that he plans to transfer closer to his native Chatsworth, Cal. So UM faces an uphill climb here.
For lots of Dolphins, Heat and Marlins nuggets, please click here. And please check back tonight for Heat-Raptors postscripts and reaction. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz