Lowry's prayer goes unanswered as Raptors lose in OT

On a night the Toronto Raptors played poorly, they very nearly pulled off a victory after Kyle Lowry's long-distance buzzer-beater forced overtime.

But it all fell apart over the extra five minutes, as the Raptors dropped a 102-96 decision to the Miami Heat on Tuesday, in Game 1 of their best-of-seven second-round playoff series.

Jonas Valanciunas had 24 points and 14 rebounds, DeMar DeRozan added 22 points, Terrence Ross chipped in with 19, and DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph had 10 points apiece.

Goran Dragic scored 26 points to top the Heat, while Dwyane Wade finished with 24, moving into the 16th spot on the NBA's all-time scoring list.

Lowry, who struggled throughout Toronto's opening-round series against Indiana, drained the thrilling 39-foot buzzer-beater to force the extra period. But he was otherwise no better than he was against Indy. The all-star guard didn't get his first assist until 15 minutes into the game, and finished with almost as many fouls (five) as points (seven). He had just six assists.

The game between the No. 2 and 3 seeds was tightly matched from the opening tipoff with 15 lead changes through the first three quarters.

The Heat took a narrow 68-63 lead into the fourth, but they'd stretched it to 10 points barely two minutes into the quarter. The Raptors chipped away at the lead, and Joseph's driving layup with a minute to play cut the Heat's lead to two points, but Dragic responded with a gut-wrenching three-pointer with 41 seconds left.

Two Miami turnovers and a loose ball foul allowed Toronto to come back in the dying seconds. With Toronto down 89-83, Ross hit a three-pointer. The Heat managed just one free throw as Ross hit a free throw and Lowry sank the tying three from long distance.

The Raptors almost had another bite of the apple in overtime, when six Raptors points pulled Toronto to within three with 27 seconds left. But Wade pounced on a Toronto turnover to clinch the victory for Miami.

Game 2 is Thursday in Toronto, then the series shifts to Miami for Games 3 and 4.

On paper, the Raptors are favoured, winners of five of their last six meetings with Miami. But the Heat owned the Raptors for several seasons before that. Prior to a Miami loss in March of last season, the Heat had won a whopping 16 straight against Toronto.

It took both teams seven games to make the second round, Toronto edging the Pacers 89-84 on Sunday at home, and the Heat beating Charlotte in a 33-point rout.

Miami is also playing without 11-time all-star Chris Bosh, who sat on the Heat bench in a designer suit. The former Raptor missed the final 29 games of the regular season after a blood clot was found in his left calf.

The game was played against a Maple Leaf background of red and white-clad fans, including 17-year NFL veteran Tony Gonzalez, who chucked footballs high up into the crowd during a timeout.

Outside, Maple Leaf Square drew another jam-packed crowd, while the popular Toronto sign in front of City Hall was lit in Raptors red and white.

There was an odd moment in the pre-game media availability when Heat coach Erik Spoelstra took the podium, said "Everybody's ready to play," then beat a hasty exit.

Valanciunas, with 10 points, and DeRozan (eight) scored all of Toronto's points in a first quarter that saw the Raptors briefly hold a six-point lead. They went into the second tied 18-18.

The Raptors used a 15-5 run to open a six-point lead, but the Heat fired back to pull even, and Toronto took a slim 43-41 lead into the locker-room at halftime.

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