There is a lot to unpack from this game. There were some very positive signs, some other developments that were quite troubling, and plenty of crazy stuff that we've never really seen before.
Let's look at some numbers and try to make sense of it all.
Game 1 just isn't our thing
This marks the 10th playoff series in Raptor history and the second time that the team has ever reached the second round. With this loss, the Raptors now have a record of 1-9 in the 10 Game 1s from those series, including a 0-5 record as the home team.
Lineups that helped, lineups that hurt
New series, new starting lineup. Dwane Casey matched the small-ball lineup that the Miami Heat are forced to use without Chris Bosh by trotting out a brand new starting five of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, DeMarre Carroll at the four, and Jonas Valanciunas. That unit played Miami even at 29-29 in 16.4 minutes, so we'll call that a good move.
On the more questionable side of things:
The Raptors ran out three different no-KL-no-DD lineups this game for a total of 5 minutes. They were -6 in those minutes.— Daniel Hackett (@dhackett1565) May 4, 2016
We saw in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Indiana Pacers that the team really suffers when both Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are on the bench at the same time. Staggering the minutes of the two All-Stars -- even if they're struggling -- simply seems necessary at this point if the team wants to have viable options on offense at all times.
The Lowry-plus-bench and DeRozan-plus-bench lineups have proven time and time again how effective they can be in both the regular season and postseason this year, so Casey has to find a way to avoid spending so much time in a close game without either guy on the floor.
Speaking of the bench...
We don't say this often, but the Raptors' bench wasn't all that great tonight (perhaps an extension of the lineup decisions, but still).
Terrence Ross' 19 points (a career playoff high) on 7-for-13 shooting from the field was a nice, unexpected bonus and Cory Joseph continued to be the most consistent and reliable Raptor this postseason, but Bismack Biyombo and Patrick Patterson were uncharacteristically non-factors.
Biyombo didn't score a single point or block a single shot in this one and was somehow a team-worst -13 in only 11.5 minutes of action. Patrick Patterson only managed to chip in two points on 1-for-4 shooting and was a -10 in 18.5 minutes.
The low playing time for both can be explained by the combination of the need for the Raptors to go small against the Heat and the dominant play of Jonas Valanciunas at center, but the Raptors aren't likely to win many games in which Biyombo and Patterson both fail to make an impact.
The Heat have weapons
Goran Dragic had a magnificent game for the Heat, scoring 26 points on 10-for-20 shooting (including 3-for-4 from long range), adding six rebounds and two assists, while finishing with a game-high plus-minus of +15. Dwyane Wade added 24 points on 10-for-21 shooting (including a rare three-pointer), six rebounds, and four assists.
Joe Johnson (16 points, seven boards), Luol Deng (10 points), and Hassan Whiteside (nine points, 17 boards, a block) were all a bit quieter by comparison, but still very impactful.
Aside from their five starters, however, the Heat only got 17 points from their bench (11 of which came from Josh Richardson). That has the potential to be something the Raptors can exploit going forward if their own bench returns to form.
Jonas Valanciunas is going to feast in this series
JV has a way of playing very well in Game 1s and he had arguably the best playoff performance of his career in this one.
He scored 24 points on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and 4-for-4 from the line, while otherwise stuffing the stat sheet with 14 boards, three assists, two steals, and three blocks.
Apart from being a team-best +10, his fingerprints were all over this game in the form of 16 contested shots and nine screen assists as well, according to NBA.com's hustle stats (he had the game high in both of those categories).
Valanciunas' matchup with Hassan Whiteside looks like it will be one of the most interesting things to watch in this series. No one on the Heat really stands a chance of containing JV if Whiteside were to get hurt or fall into foul trouble in a given game, so Valanciunas could prove to be the most important Raptor in this matchup.
Let's talk about Kyle Lowry
Most of the negative focus in the first round against the Pacers seemed to fall on DeMar DeRozan, but he looked freed of his Paul George demons in this one, scoring 22 points on 9-for-22 shooting (marking only the second time this postseason that he's managed to shoot over 40.0%).
Now that DeRozan looks free to operate, Lowry's performance this postseason is going to stand out like a swollen elbow. That's the expression, right?
Lowry scored seven points (almost half of which came on his miracle 50-foot game-tying heave at the fourth quarter buzzer) on 3-for-13 shooting from the field and 1-for-7 from long range. According to NBA.com/stats, he was 2-for-11 on uncontested shots. That is suboptimal.
The pervading public opinion on the source of Lowry's struggles revolves around his late-season elbow injury, but ESPN's Zach Lowe recently suggested on his podcast that there's reason to believe that Lowry is just mired in a prolonged slump and that his shooting woes aren't the result of injury discomfort.
That would make the following information downright terrifying:
Kyle Lowry is shooting 16% from three this postseason— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2016
For their careers, DeAndre Jordan and Andre Drummond shoot a combined 19% from three
Worst FG pct in single postseason, last 50 years (min. 100 att)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2016
2016 Kyle Lowry: 30.6
2006 Larry Hughes: 31.9
2005 Lindsey Hunter: 31.9
The Raptors surviving their first-round series with the Pacers despite Lowry's anemic shooting was one thing, but you'd have to think that their chances of pulling that off again against a better Heat team are likely slim.
Sure, we'll always have this miracle shot:
...but that'll just be a footnote in Raptors history if Lowry continues to shoot at a historically bad clip and it ends up costing his team this series.