The '$1,000 shoelace' that fixed DeMar DeRozan's thumb, explained

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DeMar DeRozan finally broke free on Wednesday, tying a career playoff high with 34 points and helping lead the Toronto Raptors to a huge Game 5 win that gave them a 3-2 lead over the Miami Heat in their second-round playoff series, and a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in franchise history with a win at AmericanAirlines Arena in Friday's Game 6.

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One of the stars of Game 5 — outside of All-Stars DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, who bounced back from his own postseason struggles to pour in 25 points with 10 rebounds, six assists, three steals, one block and just one turnover — was Raptors assistant coach/director of sports science Alex McKechnie, whom TNT's cameras caught tightly wrapping a red shoelace around DeRozan's right thumb, which he injured back in Game 1:

The '$1,000 shoelace' that helped DeMar DeRozan shine in Game 5. (Screencap via NBA)
The '$1,000 shoelace' that helped DeMar DeRozan shine in Game 5. (Screencap via NBA)

"Thousand-dollar shoelace," a smiling DeRozan said after the game. "That's all that I can say. Thousand-dollar shoelace."

But what makes it a $1,000 shoelace? From ESPN.com's Mike Mazzeo:

"It’s not the first time I’ve done it. I’ve done it many, many times," McKechnie said at the team’s morning shootaround Friday prior to Game 6 at American Airlines Arena.

"I think the first thing to understand is that the process is actually a very traditional way of treating injured fingers. It’s used to create pressure and compression. You start very firm and you actually release pressure as you go through (wrapping it). Once it’s completely covered in the string of the shoelace you mobilize the joint so you actually get tissue drainage and mobilization and you get immediate recovery in range (of movement)."

The inflammation comes back, however, so McKechnie must continue to repeat the process throughout the game.

According to Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press, McKechnie also used the finger-wrapping treatment on Kobe Bryant's ailing digits while he worked for the Los Angeles Lakers, which we're guessing makes DeRozan — a Compton kid who grew up watching the Lakers and who said earlier this season that Bryant "meant everything" to him — a bit more comfortable about tying the yellow red ribbon 'round the ol' oak tree.

The fact that DeRozan was able to perform as well as he did, making 50 percent of his shots for the first time in a month and knocking in all 11 of his free throws, made Raptors coach Dwane Casey pretty comfortable with it, too ... although the basketball lifer had to admit it was a new one on him, according to Chris O'Leary of the Toronto Star:

“It was interesting. It was an excellent method, I guess, from Alex McKechnie,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. [...]

“I’d never seen it before. Whatever works, whatever means necessary,” Casey said of the lace around the thumb. “Alex is one of the best. That’s why he’s one of the best in the business, with his methods. I had never seen that before.”

Quick follow-up, Coach: Had you seen that before? No? Oh, OK, cool. Thanks for clarifying.

To take advantage of the opportunity to knock off the Heat and advance to an Eastern Conference finals matchup with the steamrolling Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors will need more than just DeRozan's thumb to continue to respond to footwear-related mummification. They'll have to hope that Lowry can string together two solid all-around games; that Bismack Biyombo can continue earning himself millions and millions more dollars by starring in place of injured center Jonas Valanciunas; that DeMarre Carroll really will be able to play through his banged-up left wrist and give Toronto good minutes against what figures to be a lot of Miami small-ball; and that the still-standing Dwyane Wade doesn't have one more superstar turn in him to force this series back to Toronto for a Sunday Game 7.

Most of that, however, falls outside McKechnie's purview. In the meantime, he'll keep working on trying to keep the remaining Raptors as healthy as he can ... which, in DeRozan's case, will mean more dates with that $1,000 shoelace.

"It hurts like hell, but I like that it helps," he said. If it helps him reach the first conference final of his career, he might even come to love it.

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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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