Raptors dealt blow as key man to miss remainder of Heat series

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Football News

The Toronto Raptors' 95-91 road win against the Miami Heat on Saturday night may have seen them go 2-1 up in their Eastern Conference semi finals series, but the Canadian franchise didn't leave the American Airlines Arena totally unscathed.

With the Raptors leading 55-42 in the third quarter, European big man Jonas Valanciunas was forced out of the game with a right ankle injury suffered whilst trying to defend a Dwyane Wade lay up.

Although Toronto managed to win out in the absence of their starting center, the franchise will have to get used to being without Valanciunas for the foreseeable future after it was confirmed he will miss the remainder of the Heat series.

The Raptors themselves, on Sunday, revealed the 24-year-old Lithuanian had suffered a right ankle sprain. They are yet to offer a timetable for his return.

Valanciunas was in great form before being forced to exit the game on Saturday, having tallied a 16 point, 12 rebound double-double in just 22 minutes on the court.

Big loss

Indeed, having averaged 18.9 points and 15.3 rebounds per 36 minutes so far in the 2016 playoffs, the big man has been a key factor in the Raptors' postseason run to this point.

Reacting to the news that he will be unavailable as Toronto look to find a way past Miami, the team's General Manager, Masai Ujiri, admitted it was a big loss:

"It's a big loss for us obviously since he was having a great series and a great playoffs," Uriji explained, via ESPN.

"It's a big, big blow for us and big blow for JV. You feel for the kind. I just met with's tough on him, it's tough on his teammates, but this is life in the NBA and we just have to carry on."

The loss of Valanciunas also comes at a time when Toronto could have taken advantage of their opponent's own injury issues at the center spot. The Heat's Hassan Whiteside also left Saturday's game with an injury, and is currently considered day-to-day.

Moving on

Bismack Biyombo will likely step into Valanciunas' starting spot for the Raptors in tonight's crunch game four in Miami. Luis Scola, Jason Thompson and Lucas Nogueira are the other natural options at the center position.

With injuries having already derailed a couple of teams in this year's playoffs - most notably the Los Angeles Clippers - it remains to be seen whether Toronto fairs better without one of their key players.

One thing is for sure, the pressure on the shoulders of backcourt duo DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry just become even greater.

Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
NBA Playoffs
Miami Heat
Southeast Division
Kyle Lowry

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