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Anunoby does it all as Raptors outpace Heat 112-104

VanVleet returned, Young shined, but O.G. dominated.

Miami Heat v Toronto Raptors Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors trialed the Miami Heat through 2.5 quarters tonight, but the Raptors veterans — Fred VanVleet, Thad Young, and O.G. Anunoby — used their steady hands to right the ship. Those three led a 21-0 third quarter run that gave the Raptors a 10-point lead. They never trailed again, eventually defeating the Heat 112-104.

O.G. Anunoby led all scorers with 32 points, shot 13-for-18 from the field and grabbed 10 rebounds. Almost all of his shots came in the paint (just three three-point attempts).

Max Struss led the Heat with 20 points. The GROAT, Kyle Lowry, scored 19 points, shooting 4-for-7 from downtown.

After the game head coach Nick Nurse praised O.G.’s ability to get in the right situations, and said these were things they specifically worked on pre-game. Even with the Heat moving their coverage, Nurse said, O.G. did a great job adjusting. “He wanted the ball, he controlled it, he passed it and that’s what you want from a number one guy.”

The Raptors looked just a slight step slow through the early part of the game, and although they’d surge forward in spurts, they couldn’t quite catch up the Heat. A couple of unforced turnovers, a couple of forced shots, a poor defensive transition effort and a Lowry corner three gave Miami their largest lead, 70-59, partway through the third.

But then: The Raptors starting getting stops. A lot of stops. 7 in a row. 10. 13! The strong rotations and smart close outs that weren’t there earlier finally caught up.

Thad Young continued his strong, veteran, Marc Gasol-like role, getting his hands on pretty much every ball in play. He grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted on an Anunoby three that cut Miami’s lead to two, and then set a screen that freed Fred VanVleet up for a jumper that tied the score at 70.

VanVleet picked things up after a ghastly first quarter; after his 2-for 8 start, he hit three of his next five and notched three more free throws as well, as the Raptors made their run back. He finished with 23 points and eight assists.

After the game, VanVleet admitted he “still felt like shit,” and that he felt better earlier, but after about three minutes he realized he was nowhere near 100%.

After a VanVleet free throw gave the Raptors a 71-70 lead, Anunoby went on a personal 6-0 run — all drives to the hoop, plus a sensational back door alley-oop from Fred.

VanVleet then capped the run with a three, giving the Raptors a 10-point lead, 80-70, with two minutes to go in the third.

Yeah, you can double heck the math, but that’s a 21-0 run!

The Raptors finished the frame up 84-79.

Miami cut into the lead early in the fourth, getting it down to two, 88-86. But a smooth O.G. stepback gave the Raptors their four-point cushion back. Young then dished a lovely dime to Barnes, and although Barnes didn’t score, Young cleaned up the glass and dropped in the two. A few free throws later and the Raptors had pushed it back to 10.

Lowry used every trick in the book to will the Heat back in it, including continually going at Chris Boucher and using his, er, heft to put Boucher in awkward positions — and get the foul call.

O.G. and Jimmy Butler battled physically through the fourth; Anunoby found a cutting Chris Boucher for a jam that put the Raptors up 5. Caleb Martin was then called for an offensive foul for running over Fred VanVleet, and Chris Boucher nailed a dagger corner three that put the Raptors up 110-102, and brought the crowd to its feet.

Butler was not a Raptor killer on this night, as he usually is; he only took eight shots and five free throws, and finished the game with 13 points. Max S

The game started off with a couple of feel-good moments. First, Kyle Lowry was introduced last for the Miami Heat, and you know the Toronto crowd showed the GROAT some love. But they also had some for Dalano Banton, introduced as a starter for the first time ever in Toronto.

Banton took the game’s first shot, too, an awkward runner that bounced off the left side of the rim— and wouldn’t you know it, Lowry opened the scoring going the other way, with a classic Lowry PU3IT. Scottie Barnes had his jumper falling early, but Nikola Jovic scored nine of Miami’s first 15 points as the Heat built an early 7 point lead.

Shortly thereafter, Barnes rejected a Caleb Martin three with an incredible leap —but it fell right back into Martin’s hands, and he drained the reset triple as Barnes sailed into the crowd.

Koloko caught a nice alley-oop from Freddy that got the crowd into it; the two of them connected on a second one towards the end of the frame, part of a mini 8-4 run that cut Miami’s lead to 31-27 at the end of the quarter.

I was impressed with Miami’s ball movement in the half court in the first quarter; I think of them as pretty plodding halfcourt team like the Raps, but they were zipping it around in the first. It didn’t help that the Raptors’ D wasn’t particularly sharp early, and the slow-footed rotations and solid ball movement led to Miami hitting 11 of their first 16 shots.

Offensively, Fred VanVleet and Scottie Barnes dominated the frame for the Raptors, as the combined to take 14 shots. Barnes was feeling it, hitting four, but VanVLeet appeared to be forcing things, missing all but two of his shots and dribbling the heck out of the ball ahead of most of his attempts.

Anunoby was quiet early, but he made his voice heard in the second, notching a dunk and a driving layup, the latter hitting Mimi’s lead to 1. But the Heat pushed it back 7, in no small part due to Max Strus throwing a hammer dunk down on Christian Koloko’s head.

Dalano Banton stopped the bleeding with a beautiful transition finger roll, which Anunoby quickly followed with his own layup in transition. That trimmed Miami’s lead back to three.

A VanVleet sidestep three got it down to two, and Anunoby post up (over Lowry!) cut it to 1… but a Struss three, followed by a Lowry three (going to his left, natch) pushed it back to seven.

Miami’s lead eventually reached double-digits, and only an O.G. offensive rebound and a Lowry turnover allowed the Raptors get the lead down to six at halftime.

Before the game, Nick Nurse said Anunoby’s been “OK” lately, — but he thought he was better last year at this point in the season, and was looking for more from him, both starting adn finishing his drives. Well, Anunoby shot 7-for-8 in the second quarter—with all seven attempts coming in the paint. he finished the half with 14 points and five boards.

O.G. Anunoby first half shot chart

Scottie Barnes had an excellent all-around game, finishing with 19 points (on 9-for-14 shooting), six assists and six rebounds. Chris Boucher had a 15-10 double-double off the bench.

Gabe Vincent paced the Heat off the bench with 16 points.

The Raptors are back in action Saturday night when they head south to visit the Atlanta Hawks.