Despite never leading, the Miami Heat simply could not be satisfied with this win as the Raptors fought tooth and nail. Vicious D breaks it all down as the Raptors gave an effort we should all be proud of.
If you're a Raptor fan, you couldn't have asked for much more.
If you're a Heat fan, you're probably wondering how you can steal some of the Raptors' heart.
Although I've always been one to hate to use the term "moral victory", last night may have been the most perfect example of one. Coming off a back-to-back, the Raptors put a scare into the Miami Heat by playing with heart, by never giving up, and by utilizing their depth.
Yup, it was a mish-mash of players and the Raptors couldn't gain a lead for the entire evening.
And yet, here I am, feeling pretty good about this loss.
Well guys like Julian Wright and Joey Dorsey both continued to impress the heck out of me with their hustle and work. While both sometimes were found over extended beyond their abilities, both gave the Raptors some well needed defensive presence. Wright managed to contain LeBron fairly well in addition to leading some impressive offensive possessions and Dorsey battled the Miami bigs a night after wrestling with Dwight Howard all night.
You also had guys like Jose Calderon dropping in another solid night of work and our Young Onez coming in and giving our Raptors a lot of legs. Sonny Weems got things going in the first half, while DeMar DeRozan put in another solid effort to round off a career evening the other day. Oh and Amir Johnson used his fouls effectively and managed to get on that offensive glass.
Even guys who didn't play their best ball such as Andrea Bargnani and Jarrett Jack still gave us some production. While I believe Bargs really forced things and just didn't understand that he needed to adjust his shot to get things going (ie higher arc, more legs), I don't think Jay Triano had any choice but to play him considering the foul trouble that plagued Dorsey and Johnson. Jarrett Jack on the other hand, continued to force the issue and is starting to show signs that his judgment needs to be called into question a little more often.
However, it's hard for me to fault the Raptors considering that this is the tail end of a back-to-back. Well, except for one David Andersen who seemed to infect our most important defensive player with "flu-like" symptoms.
Reggie Evans's absence yesterday just underlined his overall importance to this club's fortunes. While guys like Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey filled in quite well for him, Evans's attention to detail on defense, his experience, and most of all, his court savvy were simply irreplaceable. There was little doubt in my mind that Evans would have tipped the balance on some of the plays that saw the Heat carve up our interior D. His ability to move his feet and bother players insistent on driving the ball would have aided the Raptors greatly against a guy like LeBron James, especially when the Raptors ended up double-teaming LeBron to leave a wide open Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Nevertheless, I think the Heat have a lot to be worried about.
Despite harping about checking egos at the door and playing in a "team" concept, there is definitely a foreboding feeling surrounding the Heat. And while I'm just an outsider looking in, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of "enthusiasm" or "togetherness". It's especially noticeable on the face of Chris Bosh and as a few of our readers pointed out last night, Bosh's body language just wasn't there. He just wasn't boxing out players and wasn't going in and fighting for rebounds the way you would expect him to considering the offensive talent he's playing with. And with five fouls, Bosh was forced to ride the pine for most of the night.
Pretty unfathomable that this is the same Chris Bosh that we've seen improve pretty steadily over the past few years.
And while the Heat secured a pretty impressive highlight reel for the night, it wasn't as if the Raptors had a hard time getting their ideal shots against the Miami D. Although I'm still pretty awestruck by the dunks Mr. James, Mr. Wade, and Mr. Bosh performed, it's still defense that is going to win you championships.
It's heart and determination that makes you a strong defender.
Fortunately for us Raptor fans, that's something that we're seeing more of lately, and something that will be further boosted upon Reggie Evans's return.
Unfortunately for the Heat fans, it's something that seems to be inconsistent at best, with no relief in sight.
And that's why I'm going to sleep well tonight.