There may have been no Kyle Lowry Reunion tonight — but it was a reunion for others in Miami. A homecoming for Scottie Barnes, Florida-native, and a comeback for Precious Achiuwa, who was taken 20th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Everyone knew this game would be a tough match even without Kyle Lowry — the Heat are 2nd overall in the East (only behind OTHER former Raptor DeRozan and the Chicago Bulls). This team is tough, strong, and know how to shoot as well as defend at a high level.
Yet, the Raptors kept up in the first half — Fred VanVleet hit (impossible looking) threes, Pascal Siakam was energetic right from the start, even Chris Boucher got a few and-ones. The Heat were well, The Heat — a team that gets into the paint, can shoot the three, and has a bench player in Tyler Herro who provides essential points.
A positive for this The Raptors in the first quarter was their defence. They got their hands in there which led to multiple stops and fast-break opportunities. The first quarter ended with the Raptors leading 30-27.
The second quarter started a little weird - both teams had a hard time finishing for a few minutes... but eventually got back to it. Chris Boucher was absolutely FEELING it, sinking threes and points in the paint. He had a good night overall with 23 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
Precious Achiuwa, obviously energized by playing his old team, was getting rebound after rebound — he ended the night with 15 in total. As the second quarter progressed, the score stayed pretty even as both teams were strong on defence and got points in transition.
Yet, as the first half closed, the Heat started to pull away. An uncharacteristic four turnovers from Fred VanVleet and other mistakes allowed the Heat to score repetitively without the Raptors getting an opportunity to answer. The Heat went on a 11-4 run to end the first half with a score of 58-51 for Miami.
The second half started with the Raptors getting back even, with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet getting some much needed buckets. Are you sick of reading about how important Pascal and Fred are to this team? Hope not...
THEY ARE THOUGH — they are playing at such a high level. Pascal has been assisting more than ever before (averaging over six per game in January), and if Fred VanVleet isn’t an All-Star... we won’t think about that now. VanVleet ended the night with 22 points, four assists and four rebounds, while Siakam had 18 points, 10 assists and six rebounds.
As for the rest of the third quarter, neither team could get in rhythm enough to go on a big run. The lead flipped back and forth often, and it was obvious the level of frustration was rising. As the quarter ended, the Heat finally scraped together another 11-4 run to get up by five points.
The lead extended to begin the fourth quarter - Miami leading by eight with about nine minutes left. Mostly due to Tyler Herro going off and hitting shot after shot — something that is becoming standard from the young star.
At the nine minute mark, Scottie Barnes gets SLAMMED into the crowd by Gabe Vincent, but it stays a common foul — which kind of gets Scottie going? He drains a three shortly after.
The Heat then go on a 7-0 run, which... is not ideal. You can tell our six man rotation (lol) was getting tired, and there is only so much they can do when shots just aren’t falling as much as they would like them to.
With three minutes to go, the Raptors were down seven points. They get it down to a three point deficit with two minutes to go. Nick Nurse challenges a foul to Siakam which is unsuccessful — but is NOT a shooting foul.
A steal from the Raptors gets a (very messy) stop, leading to a jump ball between OG Anunoby and Gabe Vincent. The Raptors initially get the possession but Barnes steps out of bounds and turns it over. Unfortunately a turning point this late in the game.
Miami sinks the three — extending the lead to six. But in Fred VanVleet fashion, he DRAINS a loooooong three. After a foul and some free throws, the Miami lead is back to five points, where it stays as time runs out.
Miami takes the first match up of the season 104-99.
All things considered, it wasn’t a terrible game for Toronto. Missing Gary Trent Jr, who would have made a difference, the Raptors are 1-2 bench players away from being able to contend against the top seeded teams in this league.
Luckily, it won’t be long until Toronto and Miami face-off again on January 29th. Hopefully by then, Gary Trent Jr. is back, and the rotation is a bit more solid.
The Raptors now head to Dallas to see the Mavericks on Wednesday, continuing their week-long road trip. They will then head to Washington before heading back to Toronto to welcome another familiar face — Norman Powell and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Catch the Raptors face the Dallas Mavericks, Wednesday at 8:30PM ET on Sportsnet.