Not only was Miami able to roll out a starting five Toronto simply could not match, but it also showed the kind of depth that has not been matched in more than a month. Ray Allen scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Battier gave a short speech to his team after the game, as he did after the fateful win in Toronto last month. The specifics of his remarks were kept a secret, and the players smiled when asked. Battier included. “Enjoy what we’ve accomplished, but like anything in the past, it’s in the past,” he said. “Enjoy the moment and seize the moment. Do the best you can at this very minute. It’s all we can do, it’s all we can control.”
“Against a team like that, there can’t be lapses, and I thought we had some lapses,” said coach Dwane Casey. “I thought we played well in the second half, I thought the first half we kind of came out feeling our way, seeing how the game was going to go. But once we came out swinging in the second half, I thought our guys competed.”
After Rudy Gay scored 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting on Friday night against the Bobcats, I was skeptical as to whether Gay could enjoy another efficient offensive outing with LeBrom James primarily guarding him. Well pessimism be damned, because Gay was as good as I’ve seen him in a Raptors uniform today versus King James. Rudy attacked the basket, saw the floor and moved the ball well, crashed the glass and even hit a couple of threes, though I still don’t like him attempting six three-pointers. He finished the day with 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and four assists and has now scored 55 points on over 61 per cent shooting over his last two games. The question with Gay is can he turn a couple of good shooting nights into three or four in a row and eventually, a good stretch of efficient basketball?
With the score tied at 77 a minute into the fourth quarter, the Heat pulled away fast and ferociously. The 28-4 scoring outburst was more a statement of superiority than a run, with the Raptors making just 1 of 14 field goal attempts. James watched it begin from the bench and didn’t score a single point of it but assisted Allen twice and Shane Battier once for open 3-point looks. “He came out at the end of the third quarter and felt frustrated that he wasn’t playing at the top of his game,” Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra said. It’s somehow true: Having 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists through three quarters is not quite James at the top of his game. “He was able to rest and came in and made some big plays,” Spoelstra continued. “That just shows you his level and his standard of play right now. We don’t take it for granted.”
James finished with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The best player on the planet clearly wanted to get a triple-double, forcefully grabbing boards and finding open shooters in the fourth, but that’s OK. He played in a way to give Miami the best chance to succeed. Gay did a pretty good job through three quarters — he even stole the ball from James on a rebound before dunking — but the Raptors’ newest acquisition was hopeless during Miami’s decisive run.
“We’ve got to sustain that,’’ said head coach Dwane Casey. “We’ve got to sustain that type of performance, that type of consistency and focus at both ends of the floor. “Against a team like that, there can’t be lapses. I thought we had lapses. I thought we played well in the second half. Once we came out swinging in the second half, I thought our guys competed.” Whether it was too much one-on-one, too little production from the point position, too much watching and being in awe of the visiting Heat, there was so much that went wrong with the Raptors in the opening half.
“Shane is one of the greatest teammates any of us has ever had and we enjoy every time Shane speaks,” Wade said. “This streak started the last time we were here and Shane gave the unbelievable speech on the bus and we thought it was only fitting that he do it again. Hopefully we can continue with the same success.” Spoelstra seemed to be suggesting Battier start cashing in on his gift for the gab. “Coach (Pat) Reilly gets paid close to six figures for his speeches,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t know what Shane should charge now but he should get something.”
“They picked up their tempo in the fourth quarter,” said Rudy Gay, who scored a game-high 27 in the loss. “I thought [we] matched it up until then. They picked us off, their vets hit threes [and] everybody played their part. That’s something we can learn from.” Amir Johnson recorded his team-leading 14th double-double, and third in the last four games, with 18 points to go along with 18 boards, Jonas Valanciunas also scored 18 while DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross each finished with 12 for the Raptors.
Regrets? Bosh doesn’t even pretend any more. “No, none at all,” he said after an efficient 18-point afternoon at the ACC, the building he called home for the first seven years of his NBA career. “It wasn’t an easy decision at the time. It’s a life-changing thing, you’re leaving everything you know, but looking back on it was the right decision. I miss [Toronto], but it’s good to miss things.”
The Raps needed to perform at a near-perfect level to defeat a Miami team currently playing on a higher plane than anyone else on the planet. While Amir Johnson was superb once again, and Rudy Gay contributed 27 points, the team couldn’t overcome deeply disappointing results from the starting backcourt. DeMar DeRozan, whose outside shooting has gone AWOL, was missing layups but recovered slightly in the second half to finish with 12 points on 17 shots. At least he made a few – Kyle Lowry was zero for seven. In fact, none of our three point guards could manage a bucket or a free throw. Alan Anderson also booked a donut. Our rookies were more than respectable. Jonas Valanciunas even was allowed to play in the final quarter, after Amir had to leave due to a bloody nose. JV missed only one shot, and hit all four free throws he tried, on his way to 18 points, matching Amir. Terrence Ross managed 12 points, but slipped a number of times for no apparent reason while handling the ball.
“I thought the lob was great,” Wade said. “I’ve been trying to get (Mario Chalmers) to throw it like that. It was a perfect lob … I was ahead of the defense and once I saw the big man go up, I was looking for it. It was a perfect pass. He threw it perfectly so only I could get it. I don’t really show a lot of emotions nowadays but I got a little pumped up after that one.” Wade led the Heat with 24 points and nine assists in a game where they shot 58 percent as a team. The high percentage offset them being out-rebounded 51-26. The Raptors nearly had more offensive rebounds (24) than the Heat totaled (26).