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Heat Game 2 postscripts, reaction; Media column: The background behind several high-profile announcer departures from ESPN; Manning's decision; Local radio notes

Notes and quotes from the Heat's 96-92 Game 2 overtime loss in Toronto:

• Yes, you can put a positive spin on the Heat's three days in Canada, because it emerged with a split and regained homecourt advantage.

But tonight was an exasperating lost opportunity, considering: 1) Miami led by seven with 6:24 left in regulation; 2) The Heat shot 49 percent, with Toronto closing at 42 percent; 3) Toronto shot 4 for 18 on threes and 14 for 26 on free throws; and 4) considering the Raptors' guards had another dreadful shooting night, with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combining to shoot 16 for 46 from the field (35 percent) and 5 for 14 from the line.

"We had an opportunity; that's all you want," Dwyane Wade said. "Seven-point lead going down the stretch. You want to lock in right there. They got back, took a one-point lead so fast. In overtime, I don't think we did a good job at all executing. In a sense, we feel like we gave one up. But they took the game from us. We played good, two good games [but] not our best performances. We need to play better going home."

• Lowry (18 points) was 7 for 22 from the field, 3 for 6 from the line and became the first player in NBA history to shoot less than 40 percent in nine consecutive playoff game (minimum 10 shots).

DeRozan (20 points) was 9 for 24 from the field and 2 for 8 from the line, stunning for an 85 percent free throw shooter.

• Hassan Whiteside (13 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks, 4 turnovers) and Jonas Valanciunas (15, 12, 3 steals) had comparable numbers, but that's misleading.

The Raptors' center had the superior game and was far more impactful late. Whiteside gave up a critical offensive rebound, and late basket, by Valanciunas after a DeRozan missed free throw. Whiteside blamed himself afterward, saying he tipped the ball in.

NBA TV reported after the game that DeRozan provided "bulletin board material" by saying: "He's dominating his matchup and that's what we need him to do," Carroll said of Valanciunas. "We need to try and give him the ball more because every time he gets it, he scores. We have to figure out ways to get him the ball."

Though Raptors coach Dwayne Casey said Whiteside has done "an excellent job on his post defense," more is needed as Whiteside tries to make a case for Miami to give him a mega-deal this summer.

"One great thing about Jonas is you can leave him in for free throws at the end of the game," Casey said afterward.

• Joe Johnson's excellent third quarter was foiled by a dismal close; he missed his last eight shots to finish 8 for 22 on a 17-point night.

• The Heat went scoreless in the first 4:36 of overtime, and you would have liked Luol Deng (12 points) and Goran Dragic (20 points, 8 for 12 shooting) to be more involved offensively in the OT, because Dragic has been on a roll and because Deng was the NBA's second-best clutch three-point shooter this season.

• Erik Spoelstra's thoughts on a night Miami committed 21 turnovers, including 11 in the first quarter: "Spotting a good team like this roughly 20 extra possessions; that's tough to overcome. I thought we started to take control of the game in the fourth quarter but our inability to contain the basketball after the initial action led to free throw rebounds. That was the biggest difference.

"Those are a lot of possessions to give up in the postseason -- the turnovers, offensive rebounds, free throws. They're a good, disruptive team. Our spacing has to be better. These last two games were not two of our better ball-movement games. We're going to try to get back to playing when we're at our best."

Asked about Valanciunas, Spoelstra cited his "physical play. We have to match that, exceed it at home."

• More from Wade (17 points, 7 for 17 shooting, five turnovers): "I feel like if we don't keep committing 20-something turnovers, we will be fine. The offense is fine. We can't keep giving up 20 turnovers a game. Offense has been good enough to this point. We just need to do a better job of taking care of the call....

"[Valanciunas] was huge. The putback was big. Whenever he's on the floor, he's been very good for them all playoffs. He's a load, loves to bang. We've got to do a better job on him, got to try to move him a little bit. He was huge tonight for them."

• Can't blame Dragic for being irked about the officiating, considering he was called for three fouls after taking the brunt of the physical punishment each time: "I lost two [teeth], got stitches and always the call on me. I don't know if the refs are watching the game or not."

On the one in which he needed stitches, Dragic said "of course it was a charge" on Toronto, though it wasn't called that way, noting that an elbow (from DeRozan) happened before anything else.

Dragic, who turns 30 on Friday, said (via Fox Sports Sun): "We didn't get good shots in overtime... [Early on], some of them were silly, silly turnovers.... Confidence is back [in his three-point shooting], like it was last year."

• DeMarre Carroll's 21 points were hurtful, helping Toronto overcome more errant shooting from its guards. "He was the savior offensively," Casey said.... Miami got only 13 free throws, half of Toronto's total.

 

MEDIA COLUMN

Hardly a week seems to go by without a prominent departure from ESPN, one familiar face after another exiting the self-anointed Worldwide Leader in Sports.

In the past two weeks, word leaked of four announcers leaving (Mike Tirico, Skip Bayless, Robert Smith, dismissed Curt Schilling), and two others very likely on the way out (Trent Dilfer and Brad Nessler).

This comes after earlier departures, in the past year, of Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann, Jason Whitlock, Keyshawn Johnson, Colin Cowherd, and Robert Flores, among others.

It also comes in the wake of ESPN confirming last fall that it had lost more than seven million subscribers over the previous two years, a factor that led to belt-tightening and last October’s layoff of 300 employees, four percent of its workforce.

It’s tempting to connect the dots here and cite ESPN’s desire to slash costs as the overriding reason for the network and several famous faces parting ways. But that would not be an entirely accurate generalization; while finances were the primary factor in several departures, there were other circumstances in play, too. Examining them:

• In the cases of Bayless and Cowherd and Tirico, ESPN wanted to keep all three and made legitimate offers. But ESPN wasn’t willing to bid as much as Fox did for Bayless and Cowherd, believing neither generated the amount of revenue that would justify salaries north of $5 million.

Fox Sports 1, desperate for ratings, will pay Bayless $5.5 million annually for four years, plus a $4 million signing bonus, according to SI.com’s Richard Deitsch. That’s well above ESPN’s $4 million offer. Fox also is reportedly paying Cowherd more than $5 million annually.

In Tirico’s case, ESPN very much wanted to retain him. Though Tirico, NBC and ESPN haven’t commented on his impending move because his ESPN contract doesn’t expire until the summer, nobody can question him for taking a marquee job on NBC and lining himself up to eventually succeed Bob Costas as prime-time Olympics host and Al Michaels on Sunday night NFL games, when either retires. Tirico will work the nine-game Thursday package for NBC and NFL Net, among other assignments.

• As for Simmons and Olbermann, the network made no attempt to keep either when their contracts expired, industry sources said. ESPN believed Olbermann’s ESPN2 program did not generate high enough ratings, or bring enough value to the company, to warrant a new contract.

With Simmons, his relationship with management had become strained – he was suspended three weeks for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell a liar – and ESPN president John Skipper decided to part ways. Terms weren’t disclosed on Simmons’ lucrative HBO deal last year, but he bought a $7.5 million Malibu mansion shortly after signing it.

As for Whitlock, ESPN hired him in 2013 and named him the editor of a new ESPN website called The Undefeated, designed to focus on race and sports. But he clashed with management, was removed from his post last June and mutually parted ways with the network last October. Fox hired him soon after.

• In the cases of Keyshawn Johnson and Robert Smith, their contracts were up and ESPN had little interest in keeping either. Smith, as erudite as any college football analyst, found work elsewhere; Fox hired him to work alongside Rob StoneDave Wannstedt and Matt Lienart in its college football studio.

Johnson was replaced with Charles Woodson, a player who comes directly off the field, with the potential to offer more first-hand personnel evaluations than Johnson could.

• The situations involving Nessler and Dilfer are a little more nuanced. According to a source, Dilfer’s deal is up and he wanted a lot to money. ESPN concluded that a large financial investment in Dilfer didn’t make sense and that it could develop rookie analyst Matt Hasselbeck to fill a similar role, including on-site pre- and post-game analysis from the Monday night games.

Dilfer, who spoke with authority but spewed a lot of analytical nonsense, was increasingly exposed as a blowhard over time.

In Nessler’s case, he’s making a lot of money and though the network respects his work and gave him high-profile assignments (including one national college football semifinal last season), it believed it had enough depth among its college football stable to shed his salary. The network hasn’t publicly ruled out his return, but circumstances would need to change dramatically for that to happen.

ESPN used 28 voices on college football play-by-play last season and now must replace two of its most prominent ones: Nessler and Sean McDonough, who’s in line to succeed Tirico on Monday Night Football if contractual issues are worked out.

Several capable voices could emerge with larger roles on college football, including Joe Tessitore, Mark Jones, Dave Pasch and Bob Wischusen.

• In Schilling’s case, he continued to defy the network’s orders by spewing polarizing political opinions on social media, leaving ESPN with little choice but to part ways. And please don't cite First Amendment rights. This has nothing to do with that; companies have the right to dump employees who are insubordinate or make public comments that embarrass them.

ESPN bristles at any suggestion of a mass exodus, of the narrative that Bristol is burning. Skipper noted that ESPN employs “more than 1000 public-facing talent” and “it’s also a remarkably stable group, though some change is inevitable for a variety of reasons.”

ESPN points out than more than 200 announcers have signed new deals in the past year, including  Lee CorsoChris EvertDanny KanellTim KurkjianSuzy KolberBob LeyKenny Mayne, McDonoughTodd McShayRachel Nichols (who returned after a stint at Turner and CNN) , John SaundersJeremy Schaap, Scott Van Pelt,  Trey Wingo and Steve Young.

“Understandably when there is a high-profile change, the picture might be viewed through a very small lens,” said ESPN Executive Vice President, Production and Programming, John Wildhack. “Yet the facts are that more than 95 percent of our talent have remained at ESPN and there are a wide range of circumstances surrounding the few who don’t.”

• Max Kellerman is among several candidates on ESPN’s preliminary list of options to replace Bayless as Stephen A. Smith’s sparring partner on First Take…. Contrary to a published report, CBS said this week that is has no deal with Nessler. Verne Lundquist, 75, has CBS’ total support and wants to continue calling SEC games.

• Simmons’ new HBO program now has a name (Any Given Wednesday With Bill Simmons) and a premiere date (June 22). The 30-minute show will air for 20 weeks at 10 p.m. Wednesdays and cover sports and pop culture issues.

"I'm excited about the show, I'm excited about the title and I'm really, really excited to drop my first F-bomb on TV," Simmons said in a statement. "We are going to figure out nudity down the road, as long as it's tasteful."

AROUND THE DIAL

• Peyton Manning has informed the networks that he does not plan to take a broadcasting job this season, The New York Daily News reported and a source confirmed. “He’s been at it a long time and just wants to take a little break,” a close associate said. Networks had been lining up for him.

• Poor choice of words by Goodell, who – when asked on ESPN’s Mike and Mike about Laremy Tunsil plunging in the draft --- said: “It’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting.” Presuming Tunsil didn’t feel that way.

• By coincidence, Barry brothers are alternating on network coverage of Heat-Raptors: Brent Barry on TNT for Game 1, Jon Barry on ESPN for Game 2 (with Pasch) and Game 3 (with Jones).

• In a move expected for weeks, Ethan Skolnick and Chris Wittyngham were officially named hosts of The Ticket’s 4 to 7 p.m. show. They’ve generated strong ratings in several months in that slot and had the market's highest-rated afternoon drive sports-talk show last month.

• With Eric Reed (the former 790 The Ticket host, not the Heat announcer) leaving the radio business, The Ticket has tried to find a way for Adam Kuperstein to co-host the 1 to 3 p.m. show with Leroy Hoard, then co-anchor a new 4 p.m. newscast on NBC 6. But there have been too many hurdles, to this point. Will Manso can’t take the job, and The Ticket likes what Josh Friedman does at nights, so the search continues…

Former Finsiders host Greg Likens auditioned at The Ticket last week… WQAM will retain Josh Darrow as UM football sideline reporter; he was hired by Al Golden for a front-office football job last year but wasn’t retained by Mark Richt.

• Game 7 of Heat-Hornets on ABC was viewed in a significantly smaller percentage of Miami-Fort Lauderdale homes (11.7) than the average Dolphins game last season (15.8). Game 1 of the Toronto series was viewed in 13.3 percent of homes locally.

Please check back tonight for Heat Game 2 reaction... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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