Birthday Boy Valančiūnas comes up big for Toronto to blow out Heat

Jonas Valančiūnas

Valančiūnas had yet another double-double with 15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists but crucially he came through with 11 points and seven rebounds in the critical fourth quarter and overtime to push the Raptors past Miami 96-92, to level the series 1-1.

After being behind by as much as 14 points, Toronto had tied up the game late in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan stepped up to the free throw line to put them ahead but he missed both shots only for Valančiūnas to beat two Heat players to the ball and tip in the go-ahead score. The Raptors would never trail again, ultimately winning the second game of the series in overtime.

“He came through big. I think he’s definitely the reason why we won this game tonight,” DeMar DeRozan said.

Valančiūnas’ fellow big man DeMarre Carroll said: “I told Jonas, if I can just get him to play as hard as he [does] on offence on defence, we’ll win this whole series.”

Valančiūnas, who turns just 24 today, has many of the US and Canadian media trumpeting him as the key reason Toronto have made it this far in the play-offs.

“Their [Toronto] most successful strategy was missing shots in Valančiūnas’ direction so that he could either score on tap-ins or find the right guy to pass to in the chaos,” said Patrick Redford at Deadspin.

Even Miami Heat star Dwayne Wade couldn’t but admit how crucial Valančiūnas performance in the paint was, saying that of the go-ahead score from Valančiūnas: “That was big. If they get offensive rebounds, they’re a tough team to beat.”

DeMarre Carroll was Toronto’s leading scorer with 21 points, with DeRozan and Lowry chipping in 20 and 19 points respectively.

Despite poor shooting from the field, the Raptors came back strong to take the victory: “There’s a lot of different ways to win a game,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Fortunately our guys found a way.”

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