The janitor finally poured sawdust on the ugliest series in the NBA playoffs Sunday, as Toronto won the biggest game in the history of pro basketball in Canada. The Raptors beat the Heat 116-89, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals, first time for everything. Cleveland, which might lose a game in that series, awaits. Miami today looked like the trickle of grey dairy-clot water that dribbles across the floor when you drag restaurant garbage out to the dumpster at the end of a shift. And yet, until about halfway into the fourth quarter, the Heat were still close enough to pull a horseshoe out of this bin of stable-sweepings and make a run at it. Let North America begin the healing process.
The games in this series were mostly close, and mostly made of the sort of standaround basketball that the West abhors. The Heat and the Raptors both lived/died on iso-heavy offenses, predicated on hot hands, that doesn’t invite just a ton of passing. Miami’s assists per game dropped from 20.8 in the regular season (23rd in the league; the Warriors, with 28.9, were tops) to just 16.4 through the first 13 games of the playoffs. In the postseason only Charlotte, the Heat’s first-round opponent, and the Raptors were worse.
When you run this throwback brand of hero ball, you need a steady supply of heroes. Only Toronto kept finding them. Bisback Biyombo, a damn swift striker for a 6-foot-9 center, threw down dunks and chewed glass (16 boards). DeMar DeRozan missed a ton of shots but decided what the hey and kept tossing in others. So long as he stayed outside 18 or so feet, Kyle Lowry (35 points, 7 boards, 9 assists) was a weapon, hitting turnaround jumpers, pull-up threes, dishing on the break. As a team, Toronto shot 9-for-20 on three-pointers, and Miami couldn’t find the volume to answer.
Early in the playoffs, when Luol Deng was draining his shots and Hassan Whiteside was clogging the paint, the Heat looked like the real deal. By the end, with Whiteside and Bosh both sidelined with injuries, it was all rimout Dwyane Wade shots and janky Goran Dragic drives. The Raps won because they more energy and actually hit their jumpers. They’re in the final four while the Spurs are sitting at home. The playoffs are a weird time to be.