Mario Chalmers opened the fourth quarter with a basket, then rebounded Toronto’s miss the next time down the floor. The Raptors scored the next basket, and Andersen tipped in a Cole miss from deep to keep the difference at 11 points. Toronto scored the next eight points on the Heat. Valanciunas was fouled by Rio, but I’m not sure how, as the big guy was throwing knees and elbows in the air and Rio was just going for the ball. I guess there’s no need for sour grapes though, seeing as how the game finished up in the end. The Birdman ended the Raptors run with a three-foot offensive rebound/putback, earning a free throw (made) and reestablishing a six point lead. Rio had a nice alley-oop completed by the Birdman to keep the lead at five, and Miami forced a 24-second violation. The next time down, the Birdman grabbed an offensive rebound, but James missed an easy layup to let the Raptors stay within striking distance. Bosh scored his first basket of the quarter with four minutes left on
Grade B – The Raptors jumped out to a 10-point lead in the second quarter, but couldn’t maintain it once their floor general, Lowry, was shook up after a collision with James. Lowry eventually needed to call it quits while DeMar DeRozan continued to showcase his improved playmaking skills and play himself into the discussion of most improved player, but the team’s turnovers proved fatal. Stay tuned for Lowry updates.
Greivis Vasquez scored 17 points, DeMar DeRozan scored 16 and Jonas Valanciunas finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Raptors. Steve Novak added 13 for Toronto, which lost Kyle Lowry to a sore left knee late in the third quarter after he collided with James. Miami has now won 15 straight against the Raptors, the last 14 of those meetings coming since Bosh left Toronto and joined the Heat during the summer of 2010. It’s the second-longest current winning streak the Heat have over an opponent; they’ve beaten Charlotte 16 straight times.
“He bumped knees and it puffed up a little bit, so he couldn’t go,” Casey said. “The X-rays were negative, so we’ll just have to wait and see how he is tomorrow.” Watching Lowry writhing around on the ground has become something of a local sub-sport these days. It’s often more exciting than the games. He’s shaken off twisted ankles and pulled groins. Post-game, Lowry looks as if he’s wearing an ice-pack bathrobe. But from an early vantage, this one looks bad. We’re not advising panic, but we are advising strong medicinal remedies just in case. The injury happened late in the second quarter of a 93-83 loss to the Heat. Lowry had begun to run in on an offensive rebound. LeBron James was there first. James spun quickly and began driving back up court. They met in a pile. James collapsed the much smaller player, inadvertently nailing him knee-to-knee.
“Kyle, he’s a tough guy,” Raps forward Terrence Ross said. “He always comes through. No matter what he’s going to find a way to get back on the court.” DeRozan echoed those comments. “We know he’s going to be all right,” DeRozan said. “We’re all banged up right now, honestly. He usually gets up and goes, but he knew what was best for him. Sit out and rest. I understand we play in two days and take care of the situation. It sucks to not have him out there, but we understand the big picture.” Given the potentially devastating impact this turn of events could have on the Raptors chances throughout the rest of the season and into the playoffs, the result of last night’s game was very much secondary.
Another area of weakness that was particularly frustrating to watch was the play calling. I’m not sure what the game plan was going into tonight’s game, but the one thing that was clearly working early on was the use of Jonas Valanciunas in the post. But for some reason, that strategy was ignored once the second half started. Valanciunas made his presence felt in 16 minutes of first half play by scoring 10 points on 5 of 6 shooting and it seem as though the Raptors had found an weakness to exploit in the robust Heat defense. With Greg Oden also being out of the Heat rotation tonight (unsurprisingly), there was no player dressed for the Heat that could match up against the size and strength of the Lithuanian center. Unfortunately this matchup advantage was not obvious enough for the Raptors coaching staff to exploit, as Jonas was almost invisible in the second half and only saw three more shot attempts after being 5/6 on first half FGs. This has been a recurring theme lately and should
The Raptors had their best success going inside to Jonas Valanciunas and the HEAT got to him early, enticing the young center into two quick personal fouls. Fortunately, Head Coach Dwane Casey got Valanciunas back into the game before the end of the quarter and he put up 10 points and 5 rebounds in the first half. Patrick Patterson substituted in for Valanciunas, but he also picked up 2 quick personal fouls and he definitely has some rust to work off before he gets back to his old self.
PatMan was a bit rusty as expected. He missed his first shot from the right pocket, and on the ensuing possession, he was called for a blocking foul trying to take a charge on Lebron James. Patterson went 1-4 in just 8 minutes. Clearly Dwane Casey is going to ease him into the line-up slowly, so just the fact that he’s back into the rotation is positive for the Raptors. Both teams were trading baskets for the entirety of the first quarter. The Raptors – despite shooting 55.8% in the opening frame – found themselves down 24-23 to end the quarter.
Then there’s Tyler Hansbrough, who, despite relatively paltry scoring numbers, remains a foul magnet. You may find that annoying — you may find him annoying — but your resistance is futile. Hansbrough’s scoring and rebounding numbers may seem like those of a role player, but the NCAA’s all-time leader in made free throws is still getting hacked like a superstar. The hacking of Hansbrough is tough to explain, but some of it has a lot to do with his strange energy and ability to drive his opponents insane. Hansbrough plays like someone who has been marinating in Red Bull for 24 hours. Maybe he has; that’s none of our business, but something about his tense caffeine stare and his brooding body language drives other NBA players to irrational acts. There aren’t many good reasons to foul him, unlike the other guys on that list; relative to NBA stars, he has limited offensive skills, unless you consider drawing a foul a skill.