Elimination Game Four: What the Heat Need to do to Survive Yet Again
Game Seven on Sunday afternoon will be the fourth time in the past two weeks that the Miami Heat has had to play an elimination game. They won their first three, but now have to go north of the border to play in Toronto for one final time. After the final buzzer sounds in Toronto, Miami will either head back home to South Beach for the summer or take a flight to Cleveland to most likely get steamrolled by the flaming hot Cavaliers. Obviously, Heat hopefuls around the country are praying that Miami can pull out yet another Game Seven victory. The question is: How can they do it?
Two Major Keys to Game Seven:
Keep Dragic Rolling:
Game Six was won by Goran Dragic, and there’s really no other way to put it. Dragic scored a career playoff-high 30 points to go along with seven rebounds, four assists, and a game-high +/- of +25.
This domination is undoubtedly a result of Erik Spoelstra’s game plan. Spo knew that going small would provide Dragic and Wade with the opportunity to create for themselves and others. At this point, playing without their two dominant big men (Bosh and Whiteside) gave Spoelstra no other choice than to let Dragic and Wade take over.
Even though Dragic only had four assists on the night, Miami played very unselfish ball, which started from Dragic’s ability and willingness to penetrate the paint. When Whiteside is present, Dragic isn’t at his best because there are multiple bodies around the basket. This prevents him from attacking the hoop which makes him more one-dimensional with his shooting.
Small-ball opens up everything for Dragic. He loves getting into the lane and finishing strong around the hoop. When the opposing guard has to be aware of Dragic’s driving abilities, they play a step off of him which opens up his mid-range game and three-point shooting. In turn, this opens up the court for his four other teammates. When his mid-range jumper is on, he is one of the most versatile point guards in the game. Unfortunately, when Dragic cannot utilize his strengths, he’s simply viewed as an average court general.
This is the Dragic Miami was expecting when they traded two first round picks for him at last year’s trade deadline. Miami really needs Dragic to take over Game Seven in order to steal a victory on the road and move on to Cleveland. There could not be a more perfect time for “The Dragon” to be spewing flames on the court.
Stop the All-Stars:
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan have carried the Raptors all year long. Without these two incredibly dominant guards, there’s no doubt in my mind that Toronto would be a lottery team. That could be the case next year with DeRozan likely headed to wear purple and gold in Los Angeles, which is why winning Game Seven and moving onto the Eastern Conference Finals is so crucial for the Raptors.
Lowry’s start to the playoffs was abysmal to say the least. He shot 41-133 (30.8%) through seven games against the Pacers and then two against the Heat. After these major shooting woes, Lowry started to dominate and has scored 25 or more points in three of the past four games.
Lowry means everything for the Raptors. He is +51 over the course of the playoffs, while his team is -7. In Game Five, Toronto was outscored by 17 points in the seven minutes Lowry was on the bench. If Miami can figure out a way to take Lowry out of the game, which they have done in three out of the six games this series, then they should have no issue disposing of the Raptors.
The same goes for DeMar DeRozan. He has never been an efficient shooter, but is a highly prolific scorer. When he does score the ball at an efficient rate, Toronto is very, very tough to stop and is a force to be reckoned with. His defense is solid, and he does his best to get his teammates involved. Lowry is much more of a distributor than DeRozan, which is why they are such a lethal tandem.
When Lowry and DeRozan are playing their best basketball, not many teams can beat them. Cleveland should genuinely be more worried about playing Toronto than Miami because the Heat doesn’t have two players relatively close to the same level as Lowry and DeRozan. If Miami can contain one or both of these stars on Sunday afternoon, they should pull out a victory at Air Canada Centre.
Both squads have so many reasons to want to move on, which is why this elimination game will be much more than just a battle; it will be a war. One of my favorite quotes of all time is “You may have won the battle, but you haven’t won the war.” In this case, each game of the series has been an individual battle. This final game is another individual battle, but the winner of this battle will win the war, and no one ever wants to lose a war. So the question is: Who’s going to win the war, Miami or Toronto?