The Toronto Raptors returned from their In-Season Tournament Break (aka, the break teams got for NOT making the IST quarterfinal) tonight as they faced the Miami Heat at home. It was another homecoming for the Greatest Raptor of all Time, Kyle Lowry, who seemed happy to be back in Toronto.
The Raptors last played on Friday night when they lost to the New York Knicks, and got some rest on the weekend. They were missing Gradey Dick, who is on G-League assignment, as well as Christian Koloko who is out indefinitely. That was not too bad compared to the Miami Heat missing Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro to injury along. Yet, the Heat still found a way to dominate for most of the game.
Due to that, the Miami starting lineup looked a little different with Jimmy Butler, Lowry, and Duncan Robinson being joined by Orlando Robinson and Caleb Martin. The Raptors went with their usual starting lineup.
Miami came out the gates HOT (not pun intended) and went on a 22-7 run led by Caleb Martin who scored 15 points in the first quarter on 3-4 three point shooting. It was O.G. Anunoby who went on an 8-0 himself to help start the Raptors comeback, helped by five points from Gary Trent Jr. and 10 from Siakam.
Fans were also on lookout for another Precious Achiuwa Miami Revenge Game — and he showed off in the first quarter with a flashy assist to Siakam. Precious LOVES to play the Miami Heat — his record breaking game where he grabbed over 20 rebounds was against them as well. Showing his former team what they gave away? Maybe.
Miami still led at the end of the first quarter, 37-32.
Caleb Martin continued to hoop in the second quarter and by halftime was up to 23 points.
Precious Achiuwa was another standout of the second quarter, getting up to nine points by halftime. Him and Trent Jr. led the bench for Toronto, with Trent Jr. scoring seven of his own in the first half.
The Raptors continued to creep back through the second quarter until it was Siakam who tied it all up at 54-54 with four minutes left in the half.
Toronto was able to take the lead late in the second quarter, and kept it, going into the half up 66-64. Though Caleb Martin was on fire with 23 points in the first half, he was the only member of the Miami Heat in double digit scoring. The Raptors took advantage of that, getting hot from three and bringing themselves back.
Miami put it together more to kick start the second half, which was aided by the fact that the Raptors didn’t score for the first five minutes of the third quarter. Miami was able to go out on a 12-0 run.
The Raptors 1st possession of the half and 1st 2 possessions out of timeouts in this quarter were all turnovers.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 7, 2023
By the 5:30 mark, it was a 16-0 run, and Siakam finally broke the scoring drought for the Raptors. From there, they brought it back within eight points, and then six, and then three... and the Raptors were only down three at the end of the quarter.
Gary Trent Jr was a big part of that comeback in the third, and went into the fourth with 15 points shooting 50% from three.
Yet the fourth quarter started with another slide from the Raptors, allowing the Heat to get up eight points AGAIN. After scoring just two points in the first three quarters, Scottie Barnes scored a quick ten to kick off the fourth, his usual burst of energy in the clutch coming out.
By the three minute mark, the Raptors were down by just three points, and we yet again had a game (dizzy yet?) — but it was too good to be true as Duncan Robinson scored a quick eight points to bring Miami up ten points with 1:43 left in the game.
It was smooth sailing from there as the Heat coasted through the last two minutes to take this game. They won 112-103 in the end.
Pro’s: Siakam, Anunoby, the Bench
Despite the loss, this game seemed winnable for parts of the night. The Raptors showed fight on a few different fronts. Pascal Siakam led all scorers with 30 points, six assists and four rebounds, while O.G. Anunoby had 23 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Postgame, Anunoby expressed frustration at the fact that the team is truly trying to improve, especially during in-game situations.
While some nights the complaint is that the bench did not contribute, that was not the case tonight. Though he was quieter in the second half, Precious Achiuwa scored nine points, three rebounds and two assists on his former team. Gary Trent Jr. ended the night with 15 points, two rebounds and two assists.
Con’s: Schroder, Jakob, Barnes
It was a rough night for many factors of the Raptors offence that are usually keys to this team’s success. Dennis Schroder had nine points on 4-18 shooting from the field, and ended the night with nine points, five assists and five rebounds. For someone who is meant to be leading and facilitating the offence, this obviously is not ideal, and the Raptors struggled to thrive because of it.
With the primary point guard not performing up to par tonight, it makes a bit of sense that his pick and roll partner also did not perform well. Jakob Poeltl — usually with a double double in most games — ended with two points and six rebounds.
Maybe the most surprising not-to-par performance of the night was from Scottie Barnes, who scored 12 points total on the night. It was interesting seeing him at two points going into the fourth, but he did turn it on somewhat in the fourth to score ten points. After the game, Darko Rajakovic commented on Scottie’s 5-17 field goal stat and said he needs to work on making sure he is making smart decisions so that more of those shots go in. He also commented on Scottie’s ability to shoot the three (he scored two three pointers in the fourth quarter) and how his teammates should be trying to find him more for those shots.
These cons happening all in the same night make it hard for the Raptors to find success. Pair that with the fact that their defence was not up to it’s usual standard and the their turnovers (especially in the third quarter) were out of hand — it ended up being a rough end to the night for the team. Though it was overall a pretty fun game to watch (mostly due to the fact that the Raptors kept bringing it close and making us wonder if they could come back and win it) all of the things that could have been excused in a win were just blaring faults in a loss.
If the team wants to string some wins together (and get that dinner from Darko), and prove that they are able to stay in this season over the next month and a half, games like this are hard to swallow.
The Raptors will have to wipe it from their memories quick though, as they are headed to Charlotte to play the Hornets on Friday evening. That is their second of two games added to the schedule after losing the In-Season Tournament first round. They will then travel to New York on Monday before being back in Toronto next Wednesday to play Atlanta.