TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Toronto lost its center, and then it lost a 13-point lead.
Kyle Lowry made sure the losing stopped there.
Shaking off playoff struggles, Lowry scored five straight Toronto points to break a late tie and lift the Raptors to a 95-91 victory over the Miami Heat on Saturday night in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Lowry finished with 33 points on 11-for-19 shooting to help the Raptors take a 2-1 series lead after the teams split overtime games in Toronto.
Toronto center Jonas Valanciunas limped off with a sprained ankle in the third quarter. Miami lost starting center Hassan Whiteside to a knee issue of still-unclear severity in the second quarter and
DeMar DeRozan scored 19 points, and Valanciunas had 16 points and 12 rebounds in just 22 minutes
Dwyane Wade had 29 of his 38 points after halftime and had eight rebounds for Miami. Goran Dragic scored 12 points, and Joe Johnson had 10.
Game 4 is Monday night in Miami.
It was tied at 82 when Lowry hit a 3-pointer, then followed that up with a pair of free throws on the next Toronto possession. Miami answered with four straight, a layup by center Udonis Haslem, followed by a nifty Eurostep in the lane by Wade that led to another score.
The Raptors went to Lowry, and his pullup from the right wing with 31.7 seconds left was pure — giving Toronto an 89-86 lead. Wade got a layup to get Miami within one, but Toronto restored the three-point edge when DeRozan made two foul shots with 23.9 left.
Johnson missed an open 3 on the next Miami possession, the Raptors went back to the line and the Heat crowd started filing to the exits.
Miami lost a game, and maybe much more.
Whiteside’s right knee buckled early in the second quarter as he got in position for a rebound and fell back awkwardly. It appeared his knee may have been inadvertently hit from the side and back by Toronto’s Cory Joseph and Heat teammate Luol Deng as he went down, and it didn’t take long for Miami’s medical staff to determine that Whiteside would not be returning.
With him gone, the Raptors attacked the basket at will. They shot 7 for 9 from the paint in the second quarter alone, had a 49-40 lead at the half and, after Lowry made a pair of quick 3s when play resumed, Toronto’s lead was quickly up to 13.
And that was the margin when Valanciunas got hurt, immediately grabbing at his right ankle. The Raptors didn’t even need the results of X-rays before announcing that he would not return, either.
So just as Toronto did when Miami’s rim protector went down, the Heat went on a spurt.
Or more accurately, Wade did.
He shot 5 for 9 in the quarter, slamming down one of his own misses, making a pair of 3-pointers, freeing himself from defenders with behind-the-back dribbles and getting friendly bounces.
It was vintage Wade, and the tied-up series had a tied-up score of 68-all going into the fourth quarter. But in the end, Lowry found a way to put the Raptors back in control of the series.
Raptors: Toronto put Patrick Patterson back in the starting lineup, replacing Norman Powell. … When Valanciunas (who had precautionary X-rays taken that came back negative) went out, Luis Scola got his first minutes of the series off the Raptors’ bench. … Valanciunas had his 10th career playoff double-double. … DeRozan, Lowry, Patterson, Terrence Ross and Valanciunas all played in their 21st playoff games for Toronto, a team record.
Heat: Haslem started the second half for Whiteside, an indicator of what Miami may do going forward if their center misses any more time. … With his ninth point, Wade passed Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki for 14th on the NBA’s career postseason scoring list. … Wade has 38 consecutive double-figure scoring games against the Raptors.
Miami and Toronto had been to overtime in three consecutive games — their regular-season finale this season, then the first two of this series. Prior to that, the teams had been to overtime twice in their last 71 meetings.
Raptors coach Dwane Casey took time Saturday to remember the life of Five-Star Basketball Camp co-founder Howard Garfinkel, one of the game’s visionaries when it came to talent evaluation. Garfinkel’s death was announced earlier in the day. “It puts everything into perspective, when you start talking about basketball coaching and friendships, relationships,” Casey said.
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