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Raps miss key two-for-one chance at end of Heat game

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Lost in the good vibes emanating from a close loss in Miami was a possibly critical strategic error by Dwane Casey late in the fourth quarter.

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With 40 seconds remaining in last night's Heat-Raptors game, LeBron James missed a mid-range jumper with Miami ahead by a single point, 96-95. Terrence Ross grabbed the rebound and the Raptors were off on their most important possession of the game. That possession ended when Amir Johnson missed an eminently makeable five-foot hook shot in the lane. It was a good look for one of the best finishers in the NBA. In the words of Jeff Van Gundy, sometimes it's a make-or-miss league.

There was nothing wrong with the type of shot the Raptors got, but there may have been something wrong with when that shot was taken. By the time Johnson's shot came off the rim and was rebounded by Dwayne Wade, there were less than 24 seconds left and the Raptors were forced to foul. When Ross rebounded that James miss with about 40 seconds left the Raptors were in perfect position for a two-for-one. If they had taken a shot within the first 12 seconds or so they would have gotten a second crack at tying or winning the game (assuming Miami didn't make a three on its possession).

The most obvious benefit to a two-for-one scenario is getting two chances to score, but perhaps equally as important here is the added benefit of not having to foul. If the Raptors had shot with approximately 27 seconds or more on the clock, they wouldn't have had to foul and could've played defense. Instead, they were forced to foul, essentially gifting Miami two points at the free throw line. It's much more likely the Heat will score two points with Wade at the line than on a regular offensive possession. By taking advantage of the two-for-one opportunity, Toronto would have given itself more chances to tie or take the lead and would have at least temporarily avoided sending Miami to the free throw line, the easiest place in the game to score from.

Unless things dramatically change between now and the trade deadline, the Raptors will be appearing in playoff games this spring for the first time since 2008. The margin for error in those games is small, and critical lapses in judgement like we saw last night can be fatal. Let's see if these sorts of things get cleaned up as the march to the postseason continues.