Heat, Blazers head home, stung by Game 2 disappointments
MIAMI (AP) Game 2 became a big missed opportunity for Miami. Same goes for Portland, which now has minimal room for error.
Going home could help ease their disappointments.
Either Toronto or Miami will move within two wins of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday, when the Heat host Game 3 of their knotted-up series. And Golden State will be aiming for a 3-0 lead over Portland, when the defending NBA champions visit the Trail Blazers in another Game 3 later Saturday night.
''We'll have bounce,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ''We came back after 0-2 against the Clippers (in the first round) and came with a lot of energy in Game 3. We know how important Game 3 is.''
The Heat had a fourth-quarter lead in Toronto on Thursday in Game 2, only to see it – and a chance for what would have been a 2-0 lead in the series as it heads back to Miami – disappear in an overtime loss.
Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers were up 11 going into the fourth quarter of Game 2 at Golden State, then got outscored 34-12 in the final 12 minutes as their chance to steal home-court advantage vanished against the Warriors.
''That's the playoffs,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''Things can happen in one game and you'll look totally different another game. Nothing's guaranteed. Momentum doesn't carry over. We've already proven that we can have a great offensive outing and then the next night it might be different. That's the playoffs. That's what happens in competition.''
Toronto got a split in its two home games to start the second round despite ongoing struggles from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, an All-Star backcourt that has shot a combined 35 percent from the field and 45 percent from the foul line so far against the Heat. Even though the postseason issues for Toronto's backcourt have been well-chronicled, the Heat cannot expect Lowry and DeRozan to keep missing at this rate.
''I've gotten so many phone calls and texts from people that just care about me in general, fellow NBA players and friends of mine,'' said Lowry, who's the first player in the last 60 years to have nine consecutive games of shooting under 40 percent with 10 or more shot attempts in each contest, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ''They're supportive.''
Stephen Curry is getting plenty of support as well, and the Warriors are making it easy for the MVP to not rush back from his knee injury.
The sense out of Golden State is that Curry might not be available before Game 4 of the Portland series. If the Warriors take a 3-0 lead, it might buy the league's scoring champion even more time to get healthy.
''He might be a little rusty,'' said Shaun Livingston, who has replaced Curry in Golden State's starting lineup. ''But as far as confidence, that's not going anywhere.''
A look at Saturday's matchups:
Raptors at Heat, series tied 1-1. 5 p.m., ESPN.
The Heat have held Charlotte and Toronto under 100 points in seven consecutive games now, which would seem to be a strong sign given that Miami has topped 100 points in 18 of its last 19 home games.
Then again, neither the Heat nor the Raptors put on anything that would resemble an offensive showcase in Games 1 or 2.
''If we don't turn the ball over 20-some times, we'll be fine,'' Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. ''Offense is fine. We can't keep giving up 20 turnovers a game. That limits us a lot.''
At some point, fatigue will likely start being a factor – if it isn't one already. Saturday's game will be the fifth in nine days for the Raptors, the eighth in 15 days for the Heat. Lowry has played 89 minutes in the first two games of this series, DeRozan has played 84. For the Heat, Joe Johnson has played 83 and Luol Deng has logged 81.
The bigger issue for Miami is Toronto's biggest player.
Jonas Valanciunas is a 7-foot, 255-pound problem for the Heat. He's shot 68 percent in the two games, averaging 19.5 points and 13 rebounds – at times getting the best of Miami center Hassan Whiteside.
''He's been big,'' DeRozan said. ''You can honestly see who's the dominant big out there when it comes to rebounding and scoring. JV's doing a lot for us. We need him to continue to keep doing it.''
Warriors at Trail Blazers, Golden State leads series 2-0. 8:30 p.m., ABC.
So much for any chance of Golden State looking ahead to the West finals or seeming vulnerable with Curry limited on game nights to a cheerleading role on the bench.
Even without their MVP, the champs are in control.
Klay Thompson has averaged 32 points for the Warriors so far in the series, but what may be overlooked is that Golden State outrebounded Portland in Games 1 and 2 by a combined 103-79.
''You're talking about a championship team,'' Portland guard Damian Lillard said. ''They didn't win a championship off luck. They do a lot of really good things offensively. They do a lot of really good things defensively. When you have letups and you have slipups, they take advantage of it. … They see slippage and they go after it.''
That all said, Portland locked down defensively in Game 3 to turn around its first-round series against the Clippers. The challenge only is bigger now.