Still, it does leave me feeling a little more enthusiastic the morning after — at least I get to write about some winning basketball.
1. Same but Different
I can’t say that I was surprised to see the Raptors squander another big lead last night; this team can’t seem to help itself. Despite a solid first half on both ends that have the Raptors a 14-point halftime lead, the Raps (and their fans) suffered through another interminable scoring drought after halftime, allowing the Heat to go on a 19-5 run over a mere three minutes of the third quarter to tie the score at 61.
Here we go again, right?
I’ll admit I was surprised at what happened next: The Raptors responded! They went on a 12-0 run straight away and the Heat never got closer than eight the rest of the way.
It was incredibly refreshing to see.
2. That Kinda Season for Pascal
Pascal Siakam boxscore last night looks solid (15 points on 6-12 shooting, 14 boards five assists) and he was equally solid on the defensive end as well. But this play in the third quarter cannot help but stand out for me:
I don’t mean to pick on one mistake, but it’s emblematic of Siakam’s season: a lack of assertiveness in his decision-making, leading to silly mistakes like a double dribble. He’s also being too loose with the ball (he pretty much puts it on a platter in front of Kelly Olynyk ther). It’s such a change from seasons past, when he would explode off the floor and glide to the hoop. We see flashes of it, still, but not nearly enough.
3. From the “Huh, Never Seen That One Before” Dept.
I can’t believe it took 15 games to break out my favourite “Five Thoughts” segment! If you’re a longtime reader you know that one of the things I take the most joy in while watching (and writing about) hoops is seeing something happen that I’ve never seen before — good or bad.
What happened at 4:07 of the third quarter last night definitely falls in the bad category.
Pascal Siakam drove the ball against Kelly Olynyk from the right wing, and while attempting (rather poorly) to execute a Euro step, bowled Olynyk over. One official called a blocking foul on a Olynyk (who appeared to be moving) but another called an offensive foul on Siakam (who appeared to be out of control).
After a brief conference they called... a double foul? And had the teams jump it up at centre court!
A double foul (charge and a block) leading to a jump ball?— Matt Shantz (@m_shantz) January 23, 2021
I’ve never, ever seen a call go like that, and it seems to break the rule book. How can a play be both a block and a charge? Either the defensive player had the position or he didn't! I get that block/charge is the toughest call officials have to make, but that seems like some cop-out type decision making there.
Siakam won the tip, so perhaps “ball don’t lie”, but I’ve never seen that before.
4. Meet the New Zone Breaker
We all wondered if Matt Thomas would get a shot last night at helping break the Miami zone; Nick Nurse even hinted the other day that he might give Matt some run.
He didn’t, in the end, but perhaps he didn’t need to, because Nick had his real zone breaker in his back pocket: Stanley Johnson!
We’ve seen Johnson in action against the zone a fair bit this year, often playing the role of the big flashing into the middle. He’s been neither good nor bad, really, in that spot, but last night, he was definitely good!
First, let’s note that he drained another three, bumping him to 47% on the season. But the passing!! Breaking a zone requires quick, decisive passing. Johnson has not exactly been known for such things during his time as a Raptor. And yet:
This is beautiful:
Stanley Johnson is giving Chris Boucher a run for his money for the “best part of the Raptors 2020-21 season” award.
After two games against the Heat, we all needed a palette cleanser, and our guy OG Anunoby provided it:
OG remains on fire, both on the court and in interviews.