|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 7-13 FG | 3-5 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 3 TO | 17 PTS | -8Ironically, he was the Raptor who missed the key open bunny late in the game that ultimately sealed the deal for the Heat. Not surprisingly, though, he was the team’s best defender tonight – the only one who was able to slow LeBron at all, really, not to mention the 3 blocks that all came on help situations off the pick and roll – and played his typical brand of hard nosed, efficient basketball. He’s developing some great chemistry with Jonas, and was a big part of the reason he put up the stat line he did.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 7-8 FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 17 PTS | +2He didn’t play as well as his stat line would suggest – he had some defensive issues, particularly in the first half, and he still needs to learn to a) box out and b) keep the ball above his head in traffic. Still, though, 7 for 8 from the field is nothing to sneeze at, and he downright destroyed Bosh at times.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 37 MIN | 5-14 FG | 2-4 FT | 4 REB | 9 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +4Lost his legs in the fourth, as did most of the Raptors, and was about as cold from the 3-point line as he’s been all season. Still, he carved up the Heat on the pick and roll, and his effort and intensity paced the Raptors all night long. The way he gets into the lane opens up the floor for his shooters and helped his bigs to some impressive stat lines, as well.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 11-19 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 7 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 26 PTS | -7Looked every bit the part of an All-Star tonight until his legs went early in the fourth. After that happens, his game becomes predictable – but before that, he really, seriously, went toe to toe with LeBron on the offensive side of the floor. A great effort on his part. The first half was his best half of the year.|
|Terrence Ross, SG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | -1Saddled with early foul trouble, he adjusted his D excellently in the second half. Unfortunately, that was when his shot stopped falling. It’s a testament to how good he’s been playing that this was one of his worst offensive performances since the trade. His development over the last month and a half has been astounding.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF Shot Chart 24 MIN | 5-13 FG | 0-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 4 TO | 11 PTS | -213 shots is a lot for him, and four turnovers is never a good sign. Still, he played pretty tough defense (including on LeBron, at times), and was active on the glass tonight. He’s a great third big in that he gives opposing teams a completely different look from the starters. When he’s out there with Jonas, though, it’s a rebounding tip-fest. Just catch the ball!!|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 21 MIN | 1-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | -6His presence on the team is invaluable during these types of games. He’s never rattled, plays within himself, and plays smart, smart defense. Usually, the knock on him is too much iso-ball, but that wasn’t the case tonight.|
|Landry Fields, SF Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2Made an appearance in the first half with both Ross and Salmons facing foul trouble. Played reasonable D, though the most memorable part of his evening was when LeBron scared the crap out of him on a 2-on-1 fast break.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 11 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 0 PTS | -9Looked tired out there and rightfully had his minutes reduced. Got blown by during his minutes in the fourth repeatedly by Roger Mason Jr., of all people.|
Did an excellent job managing rotations tonight with his wing positions in foul trouble early. Called timeouts at the right times, smartly reduced Vasquez’s minutes to the bare minimum, and – perhaps most promisingly – didn’t play reactionary ball when the Heat chose to go small. His stubborness in keeping his lineup big actually forced Miami to match HIM at one point. The Raps lost tonight because of free throw shooting and tired legs – no amount of coaching can change those two things.
Four Things We Saw
- If the Raptors hit their free throws, this game is theirs. The team was 12-21 tonight (57%) – a bit drop-off from their 78% shooting so far this year. A second key stat: offensive rebounding (only 7, compared to 14 for the Heat).
- That said, don’t let those points distract from the bigger one here: the Raptors have officially arrived on the big stage, and they look the part. The Heat dressed Dwyane Wade on the second half of a back to back for a reason, and the Raptors played up to the increased expectations placed on them by the media. This is the type of effort that helps, eventually, push teams to a new level. The fourth was the worst quarter from the Raptors from an offensive standpoint, but the fact that they were able to keep it close – and have a chance to win with less than a minute left – regardless says something about the intensity and effort with which this team is playing right now.
- There’s been a lot of talk around the blogosphere about which Raptor might end up getting an All-Star berth, if they keep up their hot play: DeMar DeRozan, or Kyle Lowry. After their performances tonight, expect the conversation to start sounding like the Old El Paso girl: why don’t we have both?
- There’s a new feature on RR that allows readers to grade the players and coaches in our quick reactions (menus are under my grades). Give it a try.
- Gameday: Raptors vs Heat – Jan. 5/14
- Morning Coffee: Jan. 6th Edition