Kyle Lowry’s Game 3 breakout is where Heat lost control of the series

To me the story of the Heat-Raptors series was told in the second half of Game 3, and it happened, somewhat surprisingly, at AmericanAirlines Arena.

The Heat had gained a road split to open the series, remember, and everything was looking good for a 2-1 lead with one more game to play in Miami.

TORONTO, ON - MAY 15:  Kyle Lowry #7 of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Tyler Johnson #8 of the Miami Heat defends in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 15, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON – Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors dribbles the ball as Tyler Johnson of the Miami Heat defends in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

How could that possibly be with Hassan Whiteside sidelined by a knee injury earlier in the same game?

Because Dwyane Wade went on one of his classic scoring spurts in the third quarter that night. He scored 18 of Miami’s 28 points in the period, with a couple of three-pointers back to back. That woke up a sluggish offense and tied the game at 68-68. The place was booming with sound and confidence and with love for the franchise’s cornerstone player.

Then Kyle Lowry put out the fire.

Toronto’s all-star guard is not Wade’s equal. Never will be.

Fact is, Lowry scored just seven points in the series opener against Miami and topped 20 points just one in the previous seven-game series against Indiana.

In the fourth quarter of that Game 3 on May 7, however, Lowry hit his stride. He scored 14 points in the period with a couple of three-pointers included at the cruelest possible times.

His game total of 33 points couldn’t top Wade’s 38, but the power of his fourth-quarter leadership gave Toronto a 95-91 victory. Miami suddenly was down in the series and never back got on top of it again.

Lowry probably won’t average 23.4 points per game in the Eastern Conference finals the way he did against Miami. He won’t be anywhere close to being the best player on the court either.

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Don’t expect him to back down, though, against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. He’s another of those tough-minded guys from Villanova, and a Philadelphia kid from the start. Listen to this quote and you’ll hear it.

“LeBron’s probably one of the best players in the league, besides Steph Curry,” Lowry said after his own 35-point against the Heat in Sunday’s Game 7 of the Eastern semifinals.

LeBron might have treated Wade with a little kindness if the Heat had advanced, once King James was done scoring 30 points and all. It won’t be that way with Lowry.

It’s an opportunity that Lowry first started earning, though, in Game 3 at Miami and then carried to a rousing conclusion. All we can say is good luck to him, and of course good luck to the first Canadian team ever to reach the conference finals, eh?