When I was assigned a writing assignment for the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat, I was expecting to recap a basketball game. However, I bring to you the main card: Christian Koloko, and punching above his weight class (literally), Caleb Martin.
Even before the altercation, the game — which the Heat were winning handily — had become all kinds of chippy, but it peaked when Koloko found himself underneath a towering Caleb Martin after getting up jockeying for rebounding position. As Koloko began to stand up, Martin channelled his inner Xavien Howard and pile-drived Koloko into the first row, nearly breaking the camera man’s camera and clearing the Heat bench.
CALEB MARTIN TAKES CHRISTIAN KOLOKO INTO THE STANDS— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) October 23, 2022
WE GOT A DONNYBROOK pic.twitter.com/RYvvGne829
This called for an obvious technical foul and ejection for Martin, but also a questionable ejection for Koloko. It seemed like the easiest cop out option for the refs to throw the rookie out of the game, but I would assume the league will take a deeper look at this, and hopefully provide further punishment to Martin.
Little did Martin know, all he did was light a spark under the butts of the Raptors, as Toronto finished the quarter on a 21-11 run following the altercation. This cut Miami’s once-24 point lead down to nine heading into the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately that spark did not fan into flame as the Raptors lost another heartbreaker, 112-109.
The Raptors got many good looks down the stretch, but just couldn’t convert on them to completely close the gap. A couple missed shots by Gary Trent Jr., a missed corner three from Precious Achiuwa, and ultimately a missed free throw by Achiuwa with two seconds on the clock sealed the deal for the Raptors.
To be fair, even if Achiuwa made the first free throw to cut it to 112-109 with two seconds to go, he still would have had to throw the ball off of the rim, Toronto would have had to secure the ball, and then kick it out for a made three. Not impossible, but very unlikely.
After a difficult game in a 111-104 loss to the Boston Celtics last night, Jimmy Butler came back tonight and put on a show, finishing with 24 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists leading his team to their first win of the season.
However, the player of the game was once again Pascal Siakam. That makes back-to-back losses in which Siakam claimed game MVP (at least in my eyes). This time Siakam was slightly short of a triple double, finishing with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists.
Despite the great stats, and the great performance down the stretch, the part of Siakam’s game which stood out to me was his willingness to pass. The nine assists are fantastic, but Miami had a clear game plan to double-team Siakam every time he touched the ball, and Siakam refused to force shots through the defense. Instead, he would patiently kick it out to an open man each possession. That is a sign of a poised star player.
The biggest loss of the night was Scottie Barnes. After Barnes showed Tyler Herro that he was “too little” on a layup in the second quarter, he landed awkwardly behind the net rolling his ankle. X-rays did return negative, but Barnes did not return, and he is expected to get an MRI on his ankle and miss some time.
Raptors coach Nick Nurse says Scottie Barnes is likely to get an MRI on his right foot/ankle, but that he hasn’t been told that will be happening for sure. Said he expects him to miss some time.— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) October 23, 2022
Back on the positive side was the play of the Raptors bench. After a poor start through the first couple of games, Toronto’s reserves showed a step in the right direction tonight. Achuiwa was the best, finishing with the only double-double of the game, 18 points and 11 rebounds, including some great defense, and clutch plays down the stretch.
Malachi Flynn also got his first minutes of the season tonight following the scrum on the baseline, and he made the most of it. In eight minutes, Flynn hit two big 3-pointers to contribute to Toronto’s comeback.
A big story of the game was the lack of Toronto’s rim protection. Especially without Chris Boucher, Toronto’s struggles are apparent with their interior defense. They are typically able to make up for it with their strong on ball defense, and quick help instincts, but tonight looked like the tired end of a back-to-back.
In the first half, the perimeter defense was lacking, giving Miami too many open 3-point shots, and way to many blow-by’s resulting in easy looks at the rim. In the first half, Miami shot 55% from the field, including 9/19 from 3-point range, and as you can see by the chart below, way too many shots inside the restricted arc.
It took a teammate getting tackled into the stands to spark some life into their defensive effort, and that is ultimately what lead the Toronto charge.
Tonight’s game makes it two matches in a row where Toronto gave up too big of a run mid-game, that ultimately made their efforts fall short. Last night was a 16-0 run for the Brooklyn Nets to end the third quarter and begin the fourth. Tonight was just a terrible second quarter that Toronto lost 33-17.
It isn’t long before these two teams match up again. Seriously, not long at all. Both teams will stay another couple of nights in South Beach before squaring off for the second time in a row Monday night.
Toronto looks to even up the season series, and get some revenge on Kyle Lowry, Caleb Martin, and this absent Miami crowd. And yes, just like you, I am still so confused what made Martin so angry.