Have you caught your breath yet?
In one of the more entertaining contests of the season, the Raptors pulled out their 44th win of the season against the Heat on Saturday night. It was a bizarre affair quite literally from the jump (Jonas Valanciunas was called for a violation on the game's opening tip).
From there, Kyle Lowry had an uncharacteristically poor first half; Valanciunas played tremendously on both ends of the floor; the Raptors bench largely struggled while it's maligned starting unit was excellent; Miami's Josh Richardson made a noticeable impact and Toronto - the league's seventh-best rebounding team - got slaughtered on the boards. They came up with just five total rebounds in a third quarter dominated by the Heat.
Some aspects of the game did stick to the script, though. Amar'e Stoudamire played the like elderly man he his, DeMar DeRozan dazzled once again, compiling a line of 38 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists and Joe Johnson predictably turned the clock back to April 2014 and torched the Raptors.
Blended together, all the elements listed above created a banger of a game.
Let's give DeRozan his just recognition. He was simply brilliant. His 38 points on 26 shots were huge. Despite Justise Winslow's enveloping on-ball defense, DeRozan managed to find open highways to the rim with regularity. (Some sturdy screens from Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo helped out a lot in that regard). But even with Winslow or one of other Miami wings sealed off DeRozan's penetration, he was able to knock down a number of his patented, difficult mid-range looks.
Miami coach Erik Spoelstra dove into how difficult it is to defend DeRozan when he's at his best:
He puts a tremendous amount of pressure on you every single possession to keep him out of the paint and to do it without fouling. He is crafty, he is clever, he's aggressive, he's all of it and then when he gets those buckets near the basket then he starts knocking down the pull-up and it becomes very tough ... They also do it in ways sometimes where you can't get to him with a second defender.
Scoring with such robotic efficiency is almost an expectation of DeRozan as of late, and his offense was critical on Saturday night. But his playmaking was just as much of an energy source powering the Raptors to the win.
Valanciunas had a clear advantage on both ends over the skeleton of Amar'e Stoudamire, and DeRozan helped the Raptors big man take advantage of the mismatch throughout the night:
DeRozan has 3 dimes to JV tonight. Only had 36 all season coming in. https://t.co/ylDl5hp3kn— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 13, 2016
Casey was also complimentary of DeRozan's defense against Johnson, despite the Raptor-killer's big night.
"That was one of the best defensive performances he's had. Even though Joe scored 28. I thought he worked for every bit of them," said Casey.
There were certainly imperfections in the Raptors game. Biyombo struggled mightily on the boards against Hassan Whiteside.
"I was telling Biz 'that guy is taking candy away from you,'" said Casey.
Lowry also sputtered to start the game, before a spectacular fourth quarter that saw him score 10 of his 16 points on the night while chipping in some important rebounds down the stretch.
And while the defense (pre Miami miss) was excellent for most of the game, holding the Heat to just 37.8 percent from the floor, the chaotic and messy defensive rotations that have killed the team in recent weeks sprouted up again on Luol Deng's game-tying three in the final seconds. The Raptors defense has rebounded nicely in the last two games, but there is still some spillage from time to time.
That said, this was a solid win against a red-hot Miami team. While the Heat were without Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, this still has to be a confidence building win for the team - and maybe moreso, the fanbase.
What did you think of tonight's game?