Kyle Lowry's prayer forces OT, but Heat recover to take Game 1

Ball Don't Lie
A wild Game 1 ended with DeMar DeRozan's Raptors on the deck while Dwyane Wade's Heat rose. (Getty)
A wild Game 1 ended with DeMar DeRozan's Raptors on the deck while Dwyane Wade's Heat rose. (Getty)

The first game of the second round of the playoffs had been yet another miserable evening for Kyle Lowry. Just 2-for-11 from the field against the Miami Heat, looking dispirited by his continuing inability — whether due to the elbow injury that's plagued him since late March, the looming menace of Hassan Whiteside in the paint, creeping doubt between his ears, or all of the above — to knock down shots like the All-NBA-caliber offense-generator who led the Toronto Raptors to the best season in franchise history. Worse than not making shots, he was turning them down, seeming invisible on both ends as counterpart and former teammate Goran Dragic ran roughshod on Toronto to help put Miami in line to steal home-court advantage.

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And then, just one night after an inbounds fiasco wreaked remarkable havoc on the Western Conference semifinals, things got weird. Veteran Luol Deng committed an inbounds violation, giving the Raptors the ball back, and Terrence Ross hit a 3-pointer to cut Miami's lead to 89-86. Then, Deng once again couldn't get the ball inbounds, as a collision between Cory Joseph and Dwyane Wade went unwhistled, the ball went sailing past the two of them, and Heat rookie Josh Richardson was called for a foul while diving with Ross for the loose ball.

Ross made his first free throw but missed his second, and Toronto fouled Heat center Hassan Whiteside to send him to the line. He missed his first and made the second, giving the Heat a three-point lead with three seconds remaining, giving Toronto one more chance to get level ... and giving Lowry one more chance to make something happen.

Lowry's 39-foot prayer was answered, splashing through with no time remaining on the clock to tie the score at 90, send the game to overtime and — the Air Canada Centre crowd hoped against hope — re-energize a hometown team that had looked to be playing at half speed for most of Game 1. But what looked like a breath of new life turned out to be a last gasp, thanks in part to a poised and punishing overtime performance by Wade:

The 34-year-old scored seven of his 24 points in the extra session, outscoring the Raptors by himself in OT. He also scuttled a pair of Toronto possessions with timely steals, including one with 10 seconds left — the result of yet another failed Deng inbounds that gave the Raptors the ball back down by just three — that saw Wade strip DeMar DeRozan and head the other way for a bucket to seal the win:

Just five minutes after euphoria gripped the ACC, the Raptors and their fans were laid low once again, as Miami took Game 1 102-96, to take a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven second-round series and take home-court advantage away from Toronto. The Raptors are now 1-9 all-time in the first game of a playoff series, with five of those losses coming in the evidently-not-so-friendly confines of their home gym.

After losing a six-point lead in six seconds and watching a halfcourt buzzer-beater go against them — a buzzer-beater that, we may find out Wednesday, shouldn't have even had the opportunity to go through the net:

... Erik Spoelstra's veteran club refocused and regained control.

They got some help in getting locked in from a source that, despite his wishes, remains out of uniform:

It worked. The Heat got scores on four of their first five overtime trips while holding Toronto scoreless for the first three minutes and 56 seconds of OT, giving themselves enough cushion to withstand more closing-seconds craziness and get past the finish line.

Miami's backcourt carried the offensive load. Dragic — Lowry's former backup with the Houston Rockets — picked up where he left off in the Heat's Game 7 win over the Charlotte Hornets, slicing through the Toronto defense and drilling tough contested shots en route to a game-high 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting — with 18 coming after halftime — to go with six rebounds and two assists in 41 minutes:

Wade, too, was brilliant late, bouncing back from a four-point, 2-for-7 first half to finish with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists, three steals and two big blocks late in the fourth quarter — one on DeRozan, one on Lowry — to keep Miami in front before things unraveled in the final seconds.

He kept the ball on a string in the pick-and-roll, putting a slew of Raptor defenders — Joseph, Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross — through the wringer with screens and re-screens, snaking his way around the picks of Whiteside (who returned after a scary early-game right knee strain to score nine points and grab 17 rebounds in 39 minutes) and Udonis Haslem, and making Toronto pay for giving him enough breathing room to rise and fire from his preferred spots around the foul line. This was an ugly game with lots of regrettable and forgettable plays, but Wade did his part to seize it with a quintessentially cool performance that ought to serve as a reminder of just how unforgettable he is, and just good he still can be.

Lowry and DeRozan, Toronto's two All-Star hitmakers, were pretty damn good themselves this season, but despite all the talk of monkeys removed from backs and brand new leases on life after outlasting the Indiana Pacers, the Raptor backcourt still looked uncomfortable on Tuesday. DeRozan scored 22 points, but after making his first three shots, he went six for his next 19 and missed two big late-fourth-quarter free throws. None of that, however, compares to Lowry's funk.

Kyle Lowry has to try to pick DeMar DeRozan up. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Kyle Lowry has to try to pick DeMar DeRozan up. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The point guard finished with seven points — his first single-digit scoring performance in more than a year — on 3-for-13 shooting, including a 1-for-7 mark from 3-point land, in 43 minutes. He's the first player in 52 years to shoot below 31 percent from the field on more than 100 playoff attempts, and only the second player ever to shoot 16 percent or worse from 3 on at least 50 tries.

So, yes: if Lowry's shooting feels historically bad, that's because it is. But that's not the worst of it — even when he wasn't scoring against Indiana, he made his presence felt as a facilitator, a rebounder, a defensive pest. On the court in Game 1, though, he floated, looking largely bereft, at a loss, miles away from the aggressive pitbull leader of these 56-win Raptors. Off it, he sounded the same:

And so, trapped in a fog, Lowry sought clarity in the grind:

Whether or not he finds it in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, he has to find it soon. DeRozan will put up points, and Jonas Valanciunas (24 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, three blocks) will make Whiteside work, and Toronto's deep bench will contribute every night. But the Raptors will only go as far as Lowry will lead them, and what was good enough to get past a one-man Pacers team won't be good enough this time. One miracle wasn't enough to knock off the Heat; for Lowry and the rest of the Raptors, the magic will have to come from the work, and the work has to begin now.

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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