Heat 95, Raptors 89

The Raptors lost to the Heat yesterday afternoon. Surprised? Unlikely, but if you missed the game you might want to find a way to watch it. Toronto hung with Miami in the first half, fell behind in the third, and fought back to within three with just over three minutes to go in the fourth. That’s when LeBron James decided to hit a pair of free throws, get a steal, and dunk the Raptors’ hopes into oblivion. I know many of you want this team to tank, so you should be happy.

Speaking of LeBron James, he had a fairly unremarkable outing considering he finished with 30 points and nine rebounds on 10-17 shooting. James scored 12 points on six shots in the first quarter, with much of the damage coming against DeMar DeRozan. With about three minutes left in the first, though, Toronto shifted into a zone. They used this for about two-thirds of the game and James often opted to settle for long jumpers against it instead of attacking the rim. He only had two assists; his season-low previously was five. Kind of amazing that he can put up those numbers while looking a bit passive.

You know who wasn’t passive? DeRozan. He almost matched James’s first quarter output, with 11 points on 5-7 shooting. He was confident, made quick moves, and hit the jumpers we learned to expect from him last year. He even took Mario Chalmers into the mid-post and hit a lefty runner. He also drove through the whole Heat team and dunked it hard. That was fun.

Yup, DeRozan was awesome. He started 7-10, finished 8-16, and made up for some late misses by shooting 9-11 from the free throw line. I’m pretty pleased with a 25-point performance against the Heat.

One interesting thing to note: the only three-pointer DeRozan attempted was on a broken play at the end of the shot clock. He basically played like he did last season. DeRozan’s three-point percentage has plummeted and perhaps it’s simpler for him to cut that shot out, but in the long-term it still needs to be a part of his game. This is something to watch.

If DeRozan’s performance was the most encouraging, Ed Davis’s was right behind it. He shot 4-5 and finished with eight points and eight rebounds in 30 minutes, the most of any Raptors big. His release isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but he knocked down two jumpers. The huge putback dunk and the blocks on Haslem and Bosh weren’t bad, either. Dwane Casey has spoken about wanting more energy and concentration from Davis — there were a couple of defensive lapses, but I imagine Casey was happy with him.

Jose Calderon did not have his best night. He sat for the last 16 minutes of the game after committing three of the Raptors’ eight turnovers in the third quarter. He had an uncharacteristic five turnovers in the game. As a result, Jerryd Bayless played a game-high and personal season-high 39 minutes. He scored 9 of his 17 points in the fourth, including a three and a floater on back-to-back possessions that cut the lead to three before the aforementioned LeBron takeover. It should be noted that he followed up that three/floater combo with an ill-advised quick three that shouldn’t have surprised anyone. Loved the effort, didn’t love the inefficiency.

If we’re talking inefficiency, Leandro Barbosa had Bayless topped. He shot 1-8 in 12 minutes — after making a driving layup immediately after entering the game, he was unable to score a single point. There was an airball from deep, a missed three with Amir Johnson wide open in front of him, and there was this:

I will never forget #holdholdholdshoot.

Linas Kleiza is the last active Raptor I’ll mention. He entered the fourth with five points on 1-5 shooting, then scored 12 points on eight shots in the final frame. Kleiza frustrates me with his inconsistency, but he was a big part of that late rally and it’s obvious he needs to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden in Andrea Bargnani’s absence.

Oh yeah. Bargnani. That guy. The best part about this game was that I barely even thought about him. Maybe I’m just used to him being sidelined by now, but I’d like to give the other guys some credit for playing well enough that I wasn’t constantly thinking about how different it would be if he was out there.

On that note, maybe the Raptors would have won if Bargnani was in the lineup. Maybe they would have won if Barbosa hit a couple of jumpers or the team took care of the ball in the third. The Heat weren’t at their best, but the Raptors weren’t supposed to compete in this game and they were right there. Moral victory? I’d say so. I’ll end this with some stats:

  • Chris Bosh shot 3-13 for 12 points. He has shot 17-46 in his last four games. Our old friend is in a bit of a funk. Remember how well he was playing with Dwyane Wade out?
  • Wade didn’t dominate, but still quietly filled it up scoring-wise. He had 25 points on 8-14 shooting, but added just two rebounds and three assists.
  • You’re no doubt aware that the Raptors lead the league in fouls per game, at 23.8 (thank you, TeamRankings). They had 25 tonight, with eight of them coming in the fourth quarter. Miami shot 9-12 from the line in the fourth, with all but two of them taken by James and Wade.
  • Did you know how poorly Shane Battier has been shooting? He was 0-4 tonight in 17 minutes and is shooting 0-10 in his last four games. He’s shooting 31.3% on the season, 31% from deep, and 47.1% from the line. I’m sure he’ll come around and I’d still vote for him to be the President of Everything, but wow. Rough.
  • Toronto has the worst average first-quarter margin in the league at -4.4 (again, TeamRankings is a useful site). Today, the margin was four.
  • That first quarter was the worst defensive quarter for the Raptors, largely because it took them so long to break out the zone. The Heat shot 11-16 in the first, 7-20 in the second, 8-21 in the third, and 5-12 in that foul-heavy fourth.

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