It was a systematic destruction, not to mention an inevitability. Once the Heat got used to the Raptors’ attack, they pretty much dissected them. Despite a size advantage, Casey opted to use a smaller lineup to match up with the Heat when James played power forward. Amir Johnson did not play for the entire fourth quarter, while Jonas Valanciunas only came on with 3:58 remaining, when the game was more or less unwinnable. It was curious. “I don’t think the small lineup had anything [to do with the loss],” Casey said.
There aren’t many things in the NBA more certain than a Ray Allen three-pointer and when he made it for a 12-point Heat lead, the game was over. “Being in the moment, making big plays at the right time is huge,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “Our guys are battling, believe me, we put ourselves in position against the top team in the league and now the next step for our team is to be able to bust though that and make those plays. “Are we there yet? We’re not there yet. But I see us getting better, I see us improving.”
Jonas Valanciunas was the best Raptor on the floor tonight. With no real interior presence for Miami; Toronto took advantage of the glass early by grabbing 11 offensive rebounds in the first half. Valanciunas continued to impress and gave the Raptors some momentum in the second half when he dunked on LeBron James.
At the morning shootaround, head coach Dwane Casey told the assembled media: “We’re not going to out-talent them, but they’re not going to outwork us.” He was right for about the first 18 minutes, but from that point on, the Heat had the better work ethic, not to mention the agreed-upon talent excess. Casey pointed to the start of the fourth quarter, which the Raps entered down four points and managed to string together seven turnovers and a missed three-pointer from Terrence Ross over those first eight possessions. The lead went from four to 14 in that span and the game was all but over. “We gave our starters a blow and I thought they broke our back a bit there,” Casey said.
The Raptors made it a game through three quarters but were overmatched in the fourth, but given the crowd was at least as interested in seeing James, the 104-95 final score didn’t seem to matter as much; there was still a crowd gathered at the edge of the stands shouting his name at the end of the night. And why not? What they’re watching is something amazing. His continued evolution indicates that his character is as remarkable as his rare collection of athletic gifts.
Raptors start the quarter slow again, quickly down 86-74. Timeout Coach Casey, but HEAT go on a 19-3 run before the Raptors respond aided by 8 Raptors turnovers in the first 4 minutes of the fourth quarter. Run ends at 90-74 with 7:47 left in the game. Hansbrough leads a 6-0 Raptors run back by making 5 free throws. It took 8 minutes before Lowry finally got the Raptors first field goal of the quarter on an and-one drive to the hoop. Credit the Raptors for not giving up.
Bench boss, Dwayne Casey, opted to match the Heat’s vaunted small ball lineup in the second half, despite the success of big men, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas. The pair combined for 19 points and 10 rebounds – 5 offensive – in the first half. Johnson only saw 12 minutes of floor time in second half, zero in the final Q, while Valanciunas only logged 10 minutes.
For the Raptors to reach their potential, catalyst Rudy Gay must shake off his horrible start to the season. Gay entered the game shooting just 33 percent from the field, and never had much of an impact on either end of the court against the Heat. The Raptors led by double figures early and kept making runs in the second half, but fell to 0-12 to Miami since the 2010-11 season.
After a slow start, this was a game in which the Heat steadily gained momentum and got stronger in the second half. So far this season, the defending champs have showed lots of stretches of up and-down play and weak fourth-quarter defense. Even still, the Raptors closed the margin to just 6 points near the end of the game before a LeBron three-point play on a driving move to the basket along with a Ray Allen three-pointer doubled the lead and iced the game. LeBron also had this special message in his post game interview with Jackson: “Back home to the Bosh family, congratulations on Dylan. It’s an unbelievable feeling – I know – and I look forward to having you back.”
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