MIAMI – The Toronto Raptors have one game left in the Eastern Conference semifinals — to either make history, or see their season come to an end.
Kyle Lowry had 36 points, while DeMar DeRozan battled through a thumb injury to add 23, but they got little help from the rest of the team as the Miami Heat beat Toronto 103-91 to even their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series at three wins apiece.
Goran Dragic scored 30 points, while Dwyane Wade added 22 for the Heat.
Bismack Biyombo grabbed 13 rebounds for the Raptors, who had just their two all-stars score in double-digits.
The Raptors, who are now 1-5 in road closeout chances, were keen to end this series in Miami and avoid another game in what’s already been their longest post-season in franchise history.
But the Heat dominated for most of the night, and when Dragic drilled a three-pointer late in the third quarter, it put Miami up by 13 points. The Heat took an 82-72 advantage into the fourth.
Lowry scored eight straight points to pull Toronto to within six points with 8:45 to play, but the all-star guard also picked up his fifth foul two minutes later, and six quick points from Wade had the Heat back up by 12.
Lowry free throws had the Raptors within eight before Joe Johnson threw up a three-point dagger with 2:15 to play, essentially spelling the end for Toronto. Game 7 is Sunday.
Injuries have ravaged both teams. DeRozan spent every timeout having his thumb wrapped in a red shoelace by the team’s sport science guru Alex McKechnie. DeMarre Carroll played with his left wrist taped — hidden under a wristband — after injuring it on Wednesday night.
The Raptors were already without Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) for the series, while the Heat is missing Hassan Whiteside.
A couple hundred Toronto fans made the trip south hoping to see the Raptors make history. The American Airlines Arena was otherwise a sea of white, including one fan who held up a “We The South” sign.
The Raptors, who won a franchise-best 56 games in the regular season, are playing in the conference semifinals for just the second time in the team’s 21-year history. They made the conference semifinals in 2001 and were a Vince Carter miss away from beating Philadelphia and advancing to the conference final.
Lowry and DeRozan combined for 13 points in an ugly first quarter. The two teams made just 15-of-41 shots and neither squad led by more than three points. The Heat took a 21-20 lead into the second.
Josh Richardson drilled a three midway through the second that put the Heat up by nine, and they took a 53-44 advantage into the locker-room at halftime.