Thursday, November 23, 2017
Sports

Heat comes up big by going smaller

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MIAMI — Dwyane Wade had a night off recently, so he watched basketball on television. The Thunder was looking to close out the Spurs on Thursday night in the Western Conference semifinals, and Wade was struck by the way the game developed.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were explosive in Oklahoma City's victory, which came as no surprise to Wade, who has dabbled in the art of clutch performances. But Durant and Westbrook also received some vital help from Andre Rober­son, a third-year swingman who scored 14. In the previous five games of the series, he had scored four — total.

"Roberson was the one who put his imprint on that game," Wade said, "and really had one of those special games that took them over the hump."

It was Friday morning, hours before the Heat's home game against the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinal, and Wade, a perennial NBA All-Star like Durant and Westbrook, openly wondered which unsung teammate would emerge for Miami. Someone, in the parlance of pro sports, would need to step up. Someone. Somehow.

Sure enough, with its season teetering on the edge, with its roster shredded by injuries, the Heat evened the series at three games thanks to a couple of surprising performances. Goran Dragic, an experienced guard, scored 30, which might not have come as a complete shock. But what about Justise Winslow, a rookie forward who started at center and proceeded to change the tenor of the game? Their efforts were a welcome diversion from a series that had been an inartistic, defense-minded slog.

"We feel like when we play more aggressive and when everybody's attacking, that's our game," Dragic said.

In a move born of equal parts circumstance and desperation, coach Erik Spoelstra went small against the Raptors, who could neither defend the perimeter nor slow the Heat's penetration. The result was a lost opportunity for the Raptors to finish off the series on the road — and another chance for Wade to concoct some of his familiar playoff magic.

Game 7 is this afternoon in Toronto. Wade is fluent in the language of elimination games. In his career, he has played in seven Games 7s and come away with five wins. Perhaps the city of Toronto has reason to feel nervous.

"You're either going to continue playing, or your season is over," Wade said. "That's the reality of it. So you got to give a little more, and you got to do a little more."

SKILES RESIGNATION: Scott Skiles' abrupt resignation Wednesday shocked most Magic players, including starting center Nikola Vucevic.

"I was surprised, like everyone else," Vucevic told the Orlando Sentinel. "I don't think anybody expected it to happen, but it was his decision. You just have to accept it and move on. It's tough because I thought Coach was really doing something good for us. We were heading in the right direction. We finished up the season the right way."

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