WHAT A GAME.
Nick Nurse and his Toronto Raptors came back to Miami looking for revenge, and they looked like they were on their way to getting entering the fourth period. But the Miami Heat came back, and then made the Raptors work hard over three OTs, before Toronto outlasted Miami and won the rock fight, 124-120.
The Raptors were in control for most of the first three quarters, with Gary Trent Jr.’s perimeter shooting and shotmaking proving to be the difference. Trent Jr. finished with 33 points, five rebounds, and five steals. Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby pretty much had a no-fly zone with their lockdown defense late in the fourth and in all three OTs. Siakam chipped in 21 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, four steals, and four blocks — including the clutch two free-throws to put the game away in the third OT. Anunoby added 20 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
Miami’s Jimmy Butler kept them in the game through three quarters, scoring 24 points in the first half. He finished with another triple-double: 37 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, he was clearly fighting through an ankle injury in the second half. The Heat’s bench put them back in the game in the fourth, and it was a rock fight from thereon. Gabe Vincent outplayed Fred VanVleet early, putting up 17 points on five three-pointers. Still, VanVleet had the last laugh, as he rediscovered his perimeter shooting in OT. In contrast, Vincent had a couple of costly turnovers late. VanVleet finished with 19 points and eight assists, despite shooting 4-19 until his clutch three-pointers in OT.
The Heat definitely game-planned to stop VanVleet from getting going, but Trent Jr’s addition for this game alleviated some stress on the Raptors’ half-court offense. The Raptors’ core played at least 54 minutes each, including Anunoby, who played the last 32 minutes. Wow. What a resilient bunch that showed unwavering tough defense, and timely shotmaking late in the game, including rookie Scottie Barnes with clutch possessions to keep the game alive.
Kyle Lowry missed his seventh consecutive game for personal reasons. Whatever it is that he and his family are going through, we wish them all the best, and I’m pretty sure both fanbases would lose to see him back soon. Speaking of Lowry, if there’s a game that embodies a “Kyle Lowry” game for both teams, this is the one. The stubbornness, unwavering will, refusing to lose, and doing whatever it takes is very Kyle Lowry.
The Heat locked in early, moving the ball well and finding their shooters, with Gabe Vincent making two early trifectas. It took the Raptors a few possessions to loosen up and get their perimeter shooting going, with Trent Jr, Siakam, and VanVleet making at least one each. The Raptors maintained a bit of an upper hand for most of the first quarter, despite several quick and questionable whistles against them. The referees set the tone early that you can’t breathe on the Heat players, or it will be a foul, and that the ball is part of the hand, not the other way around. The Raptors failed to get separation as the Heat dominated the boards and yielded several second-chance points. Thanks to Trent Jr’s shot-making, his eleven first-quarter points were why they closed the first frame up 28-27.
The 6’8” hybrid bench/starter gang of Anunoby-Barnes-Banton-Achiuwa-Siakam caused plenty of problems for the Heat, starting the second frame with a 17-7 run, forcing Heat coach Erik Spoelstra to call a timeout, with the Raptors leading 45-34. During that stretch, Raptor heel Caleb Martin was the lone competent Heat player, scoring all seven points.
Spoelstra brought most of his starters back, but it didn’t fix their issue right away. The Raptors’ length bothered them, as Chris Boucher’s split from the line gave them their then-largest lead of the night at 51-36. After a listless first quarter, Scottie Barnes scored all of his first-half points (12) in this quarter. Jimmy Butler started to impose his will, getting to the basket or getting the whistle at will to lead a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 10. The Heat was able to turn the momentum around to close the half, with Butler’s foul-drawing antics leading to 24 points in the first half. His eight second-quarter free throws matched the Raptors’ output for the entire half. Butler led another Heat run, a 10-4 run to close the half, trailing the Raptors 59-53. Coach Nick Nurse called a timeout as he smelled some slippage as the Heat’s Butler+bench crept in a 7-2 run. That timeout yielded this rare alley-oop in traffic from Precious Achiuwa.
The Heat started the second half with the same momentum that carried them to close the first half, going with a quick 6-2 run, as PJ Tucker’s back-to-back three-pointers closed the gap to 61-59. The Raptors’ starters responded better this time, going on a 10-2 run. Butler went for a three-point attempt the previous play, but his attempt to draw a foul by extending his legs backfired as he landed on VanVleet’s feet and turned his ankle. Butler remained in the game, but the Raptors’ defense, Trent Jr., and overall perimeter shooting swung the momentum to their side, building their largest lead at 79-63.
This tweet pretty much sums up the officiating:
Fred got hammered going into the paint, but the referees are more concerned about the touch foul in transition on Jimmy Butler.— Pascal Propaganda (@PascalFanClub) January 30, 2022
The Heat opened up the final frame with a stingy zone defense and a quick 8-0 run via Strus’ back-to-back three-pointers, cutting the lead to 85-83, forcing coach Nurse to call a timeout. The Raptors got some timely shots from Siakam, Trent Jr, and Anunoby against the zone, pushing the lead back to seven, but the Heat wouldn’t go away, with Butler tying the game at 94 with 4.5 minutes to go. The Refs swallowed their whistles over the next few possessions on both ends of the court, and a lefty point-blank layup by Siakam rimmed out, and coach Spoelstra called a timeout to set something up.
The timeout did not go well for the Heat, as the Raptors made a defensive stop and converted in early transition with Siakam finding Anunoby for a dunk. Siakam made a couple of outstanding defensive possessions against Butler, including an emphatic dunk, but the Raptors failed to convert and get some breathing room. Tyler Herro’s three-pointer pushed the Heat ahead, 97-96, with 80 seconds to go, but Siakam came back with a clutch play driving past Adebayo. However, Butler got in the paint and found Tucket for a corner three, putting the Heat up 100-98 with under a minute to go. A Raptors sideline out of bounds (SLOB) play went bad, as Anunoby fell on the floor receiving the inbounds pass and got called for a travel. Tucker’s handcheck+push caused Anunoby to go out of balance, but coach Nurse’s challenge on that call was unsuccessful. The Raptors stopped Butler the next possession, but Anunoby missed his three-pointer. Barnes was fouled on a tip-in with two seconds to go, and his clutch free-throws forced OT.
Butler broke the scoring drought in OT after both teams went scoreless for the first 90 seconds. The Heat sent Barnes to the line but he split his freebies. Barnes forced Adebayo to commit an offensive foul, and VanVleet finally got something going with a layup over Tucker to take the lead, 103-102 with 90 seconds left. Butler’s drive and kick to Vincent for a corner three put the Heat back up, 105-103, and the Raptors were forced into a shot-clock violation the next play. With around 30 seconds left, Herro clanked his three-pointer, and Trent Jr. took advantage of the early transition and got fouled in his layup attempt, with his second free-throw circling the rim several times before tying the game. The Raptors forced Butler to turn the ball over and called a timeout. A botched Raptors SLOB almost turned the ball over. Still, Anunoby managed to recover the ball and make a desperation attempt, and we were heading to the second OT.
Vincent opened the second OT with a corner three-pointer, and Barnes took Tucker down low and came out with two freebies. However, Adebayo faked a DHO and forced an and-1 from Barnes, but Adebayo missed the freebie. VanVleet continued his miserable perimeter shooting with back-to-back bricks. Still, Trent Jr’s fastbreak layup got them to within one. Butler made a middy over Anunoby, and Anunoby returned the favour on the other end. The Raptors forced another turnover, and VanVleet got fouled, leading to a “clear path foul” review with 1:38 left. With Anunoby clearly in a position for a leak out, it’s dubious that the refs called it a common foul. The Raptors failed to score the next possession, and Tucker missed a corner three. VanVleet finally hit a deep three-pointer to put the Raptors up 114-112 with 41 seconds remaining.
Herro followed up his own miss to tie the game, but Trent Jr missed his wide-open three-pointer, and Anunoby’s tip was unsuccessful. Vincent got the ball with the clock winding down and banked a desperation heave to beat the buzzer, but his coach called the timeout before the attempt happened. With 1.7 seconds left, Heat’s SLOB got Herro with a floater that missed everything but air. Gheez, third OT.
Herro’s trifecta opened the third OT, but VanVleet answered back with his own to tie the game at 117. The Heat’s BLOB was busted by Siakam’s block on Tucker. In contrast, the Raptors’ own BLOB was well executed with Barnes’ look-away pass to get Anunoby an easy dunk. VanVleet and Vincent exchanged three-pointers, but the Raptors still lead 122-120 with two minutes left. Adebayo and VanVleet exchanged turnovers, and with 35 seconds left, Siakam was called for an offensive foul, which coach Nurse challenged but was unsuccessful. With 16 seconds left, the Heat went for broke early, but Herro’s top of the key three-pointer missed, and Siakam iced the game with his two freebies.
The Raptors are back in action on Monday against the Atlanta Hawks.