Miami Heat force Game 7 behind Goran Dragic

By Walter Villa, The Sports Xchange

MIAMI -- Leave it to Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to keep things in perspective.

"Last year at this time," Spoelstra said, "we were on vacation."


Clearly, the Heat isn't ready to visit the Bahamas or any other vacation destination just yet.

Goran Dragic scored a career-playoff-high 30 points and the Miami Heat won their 10th straight playoff elimination game at home, defeating the Toronto Raptors 103-91 on Friday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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The Raptors, who set a franchise record with 56 regular-season wins, will play host to the Heat on Sunday in the deciding game of the best-of-seven series.

LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers await the winner of Sunday's game.

If Toronto wins, the Raptors would advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in the franchise's 20-year history.


A Miami victory would give the Heat a matchup against James, who helped the franchise win two NBA titles in four years before he bolted back to Cleveland in 2014.

Dragic, who scored 20 or more points for the fourth time in the past seven playoff games, put together a versatile effort. He made 12-of-21 shots -- including six layups and two 3-pointers.

"I don't want to go home to Europe," Dragic said. "I still want to be here."

Miami, which did not start a center and played a large majority of the game with only guards and forwards on the court, also got 22 points from Dwyane Wade.

Kyle Lowry led Toronto with 36 points, and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points, but Raptors coach Dwane Casey said offense was not the problem.

"(Miami) set the tempo, and we didn't adjust as far as guarding the basketball and keeping it in front of us," Casey said. "The (small) lineup had nothing to do with it."

Despite their size advantage, the Raptors had a minimal rebounding edge, 43-41.

Wade said Miami's 6-9-and-under unit reminded him of how the Heat played a couple of years ago when Shane Battier played as an extremely small center.


"It was unconventional -- and sometimes unconventional works," Wade said. "A big man may not be used to having to guard a 3-man in transition."

Miami's speed started to show in the second quarter, when Dragic made 6-of-7 shots from the floor, including four layups, one short jumper and a 3-pointer. He had 14 points in the quarter, helping Miami take a 53-44 lead at halftime.

"The way (Dragic) played today -- he played downhill," Lowry said. "He's shifty. He tries to drive the ball. You have to pay attention to him at all times."

Lowry got hot in the third quarter, scoring 12 points. But Miami still managed to extend its lead slightly to 82-72. Dragic had nine points in the quarter.

Toronto never seriously threatened in the fourth quarter, and now the series heads back across the border to Canada, where DeRozan is hoping for a better defensive effort.

"It's just one-on-one defense," he said. "We have to man up so we don't have to worry about rotations."

The Heat, meanwhile, wants to see the vintage Dragic of Game 6.

"That was just Goran being aggressive," Spoelstra said. "In (Game 5), he hit some gaps. And even though he missed some layups, it gave him confidence that he could hit some gaps (in Game 6).


"Goran has great emotional stability. He knows there are going to be highs and lows, especially in a competitive seven-game series."

Wade, who has experience playing in Game 7s, said there will be a different feel on Sunday.

"You have to give a little more," he said. "It's a great environment to be in -- for us and for Toronto. You have to give everything you have. That's the way to approach it."

NOTES: Heat rookie 6-7 F Justise Winslow made his first playoff start, replacing 6-10 C Amar'e Stoudemire. Winslow scored 12 points. ... Heat F Luol Deng, who injured his left wrist in Game 5, when he went 0-for-8 from the floor, was in the lineup. Deng had two points and eight rebounds on Friday. ... Raptors F DeMarre Carroll, who also hurt his left wrist in Game 5, started as well and had five points and six rebounds. ... Heat C Hassan Whiteside (knee) missed his third straight start. ... With Toronto C Jonas Valanciunas (ankle) out, C Bismack Biyombo averaged 11.5 and 9.5 rebounds in his first two replacement starts. On Friday, he had four points and 13 rebounds.


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