MIAMI—With no Jonas Valanciunas and virtually no DeMar DeRozan, the last thing the Toronto Raptors needed was to lose Kyle Lowry.
But Lowry had to watch from the bench after fouling out as the Raptors fell 94-87 to the Miami Heat in overtime last night that evened their Eastern Conference semi-final at 2-2.
And moments after the loss, the Raptors’ point guard took the blame squarely on himself.
“I can’t be in foul trouble, I think I let my team down tonight,” Lowry said.
“I take the loss for us because me not being out there on the floor hurt our team.”
Dwyane Wade netted 30 points, including an emphatic dunk to end overtime, to lead the Heat.
Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph each had 14 points for Toronto, which is without starting centre Valanciunas for the rest of this series.
Bismack Biyombo added 13 points and 13 rebounds while DeMarre Carroll chipped in with 13 points.
As big a blow as the loss of Valanciunas is, DeRozan’s thumb injury led to one of his worst games as a Raptor.
He shot just 4-for-17 for nine points, and he and Lowry, who had 10 points before fouling out with 1:58 to play, shot a combined 6-for-28 on the night.
“It’s the feeling of being uncomfortable, and not doing the things that you normally do with gripping the ball and everything,” noted DeRozan, who jammed his right thumb late in Game 1.
“I think the missed lay-up [in the first quarter] showed me how much I have to deal with it, but it’s nothing I’ll ever make an excuse about,” he stressed.
For the third time in this roller-coaster series, that has felt more like a heavyweight fight at times, the game needed overtime to decide a winner.
And it was an ugly one. With a mish-mash of lineups, the Raptors looked headed for a blowout loss with their 29 percent scoring in the first half.
But they opened the third quarter with a 17-4 run and took a 62-60 lead into the fourth quarter.
Ross then drilled two “threes” to put Toronto up by nine points with six-and-a-half minutes to go.
Wade promptly led a comeback that would pull the Heat within two points with just over a minute to play.
Then with 12.6 seconds on the clock, the Heat star drove to the hoop and his basket sent the game into extra time.
“You have two competitive teams that are going and close to equal talent-wise,” noted Raptors’ head coach Dwane Casey.
“These are two tough-minded teams.”
With Lowry on the bench, the Raptors could do nothing right in OT.
Joseph and DeRozan scored the team’s only baskets while Wade swiped a Raptors’ turnover in the final seconds for a dunk that sealed the victory.
“I don’t think there was any doubt that this game was going to go into overtime,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
“It’s just one heck of a series,” he added. “Both teams, players are going after it.
“This series is complex, it’s changing fast.”
The Raptors shot just 40 percent on the night while the Heat weren’t much better at 44 percent.
Each team grabbed 27 rebounds.
The series now heads back to Toronto for Game 5 on Wednesday, then returns to Miami for Game 6.
Asked if stealing one of the two games in Miami was any consolation, Lowry answered with a definitive “no.”
“Personally I’m pissed,” he remarked. “I think we wanted to come down here and get two, and we had the opportunity.
“But we’re going to look at the positives, we’re 2-2, best-of-three, and we’ve got two at home.”
With Valanciunas out for the series with a sprained ankle from Game 3, the Raptors have to hope DeRozan and Lowry can rediscover their shooting touch.
“When our two top players don’t shoot the ball as well, and we had some turnovers down the stretch, I felt like we let the game slip away,” Casey said.
“That is on all of us.”
Biyombo had a decent night in place of Valanciunas, and made his presence felt early in the game when he soared over Amar’e Stoudemire for a monstrous dunk, then flexed his massive biceps in celebration.
The Heat also are without starting centre Hassan Whiteside, who sprained his medial collateral ligament in his knee Saturday.
Elsewhere, Golden State topped Portland 132-125 (OT) to lead that Western Conference semi-final 3-1.