It took the Toronto Raptors 15 years to get this far again, and Kyle Lowry knows they won’t go further if he doesn’t play better.
The Raptors need Lowry to play the way Goran Dragic is.
“I know the pressure I put on myself. I know we won’t advance if I don’t play better,” Lowry said Wednesday. “I have to play better for us to be a good team and win games.”
With Lowry faltering and Dragic flourishing, the Miami Heat aim to win the point guard matchup in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Thursday night in Toronto.
A day after announcing that Chris Bosh wouldn’t return in the postseason, the Heat can quickly move halfway to ending Toronto’s first second-round appearance since 2001.
Toronto rode its backcourt of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to a franchise-record 56 victories and the No. 2 seed in the East, but those All-Stars were outplayed by Dragic and Dwyane Wade in Miami’s 102-96 overtime victory Tuesday night in the series opener.
Dragic followed his huge Game 7 that got the Heat past Charlotte in the first round by scoring 26 points, while Wade had 24 and some big defensive plays.
“Goran just wants to win,” Wade said. “That’s all he talked about, was getting back to the playoffs and feeling how it feels to be a part of winning. Right now he’s in a good offensive groove for us, but he’s always going to do what it takes to win and that’s all we care about.”
Lowry was limited to seven points, hitting the halfcourt heave that forced overtime but otherwise missing from everywhere else on the floor in a 3-for-13 performance. DeRozan scored 22 points and shot 9 for 22, which isn’t great but was well above his 33 percent in the postseason.
Lowry is at 30.6 percent and his confidence looks as shaky as his shot, and he appeared to pass up some open looks in Game 1. He worked on his shot until after 1 a.m. following Game 1, first on the Raptors’ practice court and then on the main court, in an effort to rediscover a shot that’s missing.
“I’ve had a few struggles like this in my NBA career, but nothing this big,” Lowry said. “What makes it worse is that it’s the playoffs.”
A look at the only game on the NBA schedule Thursday:
Heat at Raptors, Miami leads 1-0. 8 p.m., ESPN
The Heat and Bosh announced Wednesday that he wouldn’t play again this season, ending speculation in recent days that the All-Star forward would try to return during the playoffs.
Bosh has not played since the All-Star break after a blood clot was discovered in his left leg. Without him, the Heat have relied on some strong perimeter play — they were 8 for 11 from 3-point range Tuesday — and center Hassan Whiteside, who grabbed 17 rebounds in Game 1 after hurting his knee and briefly leaving the game in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Heat seem as puzzled as the Raptors by Lowry’s struggles.
“It’s surprising to me that he’s struggled in the playoffs because I know him well,” Dragic said. “We played together in Houston. He was always a confident guy and he’s already played so many games and made so many big shots that it’s a little bit surprising. Everybody goes through those moments when you’ve lost the touch a little bit.”
If it doesn’t come back, perhaps the Raptors would give more playing time to backup point guard Cory Joseph, who scored 10 points in Game 1 and is shooting 58 percent in the postseason, tops on the team.
They could also continue featuring center Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 24 points in the opener.
But the Raptors know their best shot is with Lowry.
“He needs to get through it,” coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re not going to change the offense or anything like that. We believe in him.”
The series moves to Miami for Game 3 on Saturday.
AP freelance writer Ian Harrison in Toronto contributed to this report.