Coming off a three-game road trip, on a back-to-back, without Kyle Lowry, it was always gonna be a tough night for the Toronto Raptors. But that doesn’t make the ending sting any less. Here are five thoughts on the game:
May as Well Start at the End
The Heat had only 3.3 seconds to score, down one. Goran Dragic inbounded it to Wayne Ellington, who took it right to the rim, avoided the outstretched arms of OG Anunoby, and laid it in for the win.
Pascal Siakam is gonna get a lot of the blame here, for what looked like an overplay on Ellington. But it was a complete breakdown for the Raptors. If Ellington had looked up, he would have seen Kelly Olynyk all alone in the key. I’m not certain who’s at fault, but both Norman Powell and Anunoby chased Josh Richardson out to the top of the circle. It left Siakam scrambling, and he ended up with his back to Ellington as Ellington went to the corner. Siakam is certainly not blamelesss, but it was a team effort—the defense was broken before Dragic even inbounded the ball.
You can give Erik Spoelstra credit for the jam-up of screens at the top of the key that discombobulated the Raptors so, and give Ellington credit for the body control with the ball, avoiding Anunoby as he went to the hoop. It was a great finish for the veteran guard. And it allowed the Heat to walk away with the win.
The Raptors Probably Didn’t Deserve a Win, Anyway
Toronto’s tired legs were evident on the night, on both ends of the floor. On offense, the Raptors scored a season-low 89 points on 39% shooting; on the other end, they let the Heat get whatever they wanted, giving up far too many open looks and open lanes to the hoop. If the Heat had managed to hit a couple more 3-pointers—they average 11 makes per night but only hit 4-22 in this one—it might have been a blowout.
As it is, the Heat—already a big, scrappy team, excellent on the glass—just completely pounded the tired Raptors inside. Miami was +16 in points in the paint, +6 in second-chance points, and a ridiculous +27 in rebounds. Even Jonas Valanciunas, who typically plays well against Miami, was dominated on the glass, finishing with a mere 3 rebounds in 21 minutes.
Goran Dragic Made it Look Easy
The Heat’s sneaky point guard found plenty of room to get into the seams and knock down easy floaters, but I was impressed by the strength he showed, not just on offense—backing down Delon Wright and muscling through screens—but in pulling down 12 rebounds as well.
One Dragic play towards the end of the second quarter pretty much summed up the whole game. The Raptors allowed Dragic to sneak into the paint for a short runner; he missed it, but got his own rebound around three Raptors, put it back in got an and-1 opportunity. He missed the free throw, but the Heat got the subsequent rebound! Ellington missed a long three on the possession, but that’s pretty much your game story: Heat getting all the rebounds but not fully capitalizing, allowing the Raptors to hang around.
The Raptors’ Bench Failed to Take Advantage of an Opportunity to Shine
Kyle Lowry was out thanks to his hard fall in Brooklyn, and Serge Ibaka managed to get himself tossed after scuffling with James Johnson in the third quarter. You’d think that’d be a great chance for some bench Raptors to step in and prove themselves, but no one from the second unit delivered.
Norm Powell played the most minutes he’s played in weeks—24—and had a mostly positive impact, finishing with 6 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks and a plus-2. He made two great plays on the ball in the final minutes as well. But he shot just 2-8 from the floor, and missed a layup off an inbounds that would have given the Raptors a 3-point lead with 30 seconds left.
Fred VanVleet had a nice run in the fourth—he nailed a jumper, hit a three, then found Lucas Nogueira with a lob that cut the Heat’s 12-point lead to 3. But even he finished a mere 3-9 and a zero plus-minus.
On the other side, the Heat only played 8 players—to the Raptors’ 11—and yet their bench outscored Toronto’s 35-30.
Credit the Heat Wings for the Job They Did on DeMar DeRozan
Derrick Jones Jr. and Josh Richardson successfully bottled DeMar DeRozan most of the night, and they deserve kudos for hit. DeRozan’s footwork and pump fakes leave many a veteran in the dust but these two kept in front of him, kept their hands up, stayed on their feet and when needed, funnelled DeRozan right into Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. DeRozan finished 10-29 and only shot 4 free throws.
All of that can’t take away DeMar’s spectacular driving layup that gave the Raptors their first lead in the fourth quarter, or his excellent follow-through on his own miss that put the Raptors up 1 again with 3.3 to play. But the Heat defenders did enough to contain DeRozan and give their team a chance to win.
All-in-all, it was another ugly game, featuring some tussles and some weird lineups (how about that VanVleet-Siakam-Powell-Bebe-Lorenzo Brown run?) and the Heat did just enough to take it.
The lead-up to Thursday’s game against Cleveland will be interesting, as we wait to hear if Lowry will be back, if Ibaka will be suspended and if DeRozan faces any discipline for a shoving match with Dragic after the final whistle.