Leading essentially from start to finish, the Raptors put together a well-rounded performance, defeating the sputtering Miami Heat on the back of seven different Toronto players hitting double figures.
Based on their down-to-the-wire finishes last season, many expected the Heat’s toughness infused style of play to give Toronto all they could handle. However, down Tyler Johnson, Goran Dragic, and Dion Waiters, Miami simply didn’t have the individual creators to keep pace all night. The by-committee approach to running point guard that injuries have forced them into was a stark contrast to the surgical game management we saw from Kyle Lowry tonight. The amount of effort that seemed to go into each basket was night and day in favor of the Raptors.
The game began with each team exchanging midrange jumpers in the opening minutes to open up the scoring. Lowry followed that up by getting straight to the rim in the early in a halfcourt possession for what feels like the 1000th time this season. Jonas Valanciunas then followed up a miss for a powerful slam, Pascal Siakam threw down a lefty poster, and Kawhi Leonard swished a three off an extra pass. The Raptors were off.
The teams exchanged a few threes (including an absurdly smooth no hesitation one from Pascal Siakam) and Leonard used his strength to power in some tough baskets, before Dwyane Wade entered the game and injected some life into the Heat. The future hall-of-famer hit a step-back over Leonard that was reminiscent of the 2012 finals, got Whiteside an easy dunk, and got to the line off a savvy ball-fake.
However, any momentum that Wade had created disappeared when the Heat forgot what transition defense was for the rest of the quarter, giving up uncontested fast-break layups or dunks on three beautiful passes from Lowry. Mix in some Serge Ibaka short roll jumpers, more slick Lowry feeds, and CJ Miles seeming to find some semblance of rhythm, and the Raptors shot 75% winning the quarter 36-27 despite Wade’s individual heroics.
The quarter opened with Kelly Olynk scoring twice only to have Delon Wright answer each basket with a three. Wade then continued his excellent night, cutting for a nifty reverse finish before baiting OG Anunoby into falling for his signature pump fake to draw a foul. Miles kept up his strong half by driving for a difficult off-hand finish before Ibaka emphatically denied Justice Winslow a few trips later for the play of the game.
Despite things not going their way, the Heat, in character, didn’t fold. Ellington responded with a couple curling threes and the Heat scrapped their way to a few bunnies, cutting the Raptors lead to two. Unfortunately for Miami, Lowry then re-entered the game. The teams exchanged baskets before Lowry threw Valanciunas open on an alley-oop, long-balled a hustling Leonard for an easy two, and got to the rim himself, generating every piece of the 6-0 run. The teams then proceeded to trade baskets again until the half ended with the Raptors leading 63-54.
In a rare occurrence, the Raptors generated 11 points in transition during the first half despite the Heat not turning the ball over once. It was the first half in Heat history with zero turnovers. It was also the first half in Heat history they’d given up four uncontested transition layups immediately following makes (well… probably).
The Heat came out flat defensively, surrendering multiple easy baskets in the paint (including Valanciunas impersonating Siakam with a spin move). Lowry then threw another full-court pass to a layup before point-Pascal led a fast break resulting in an open Lowry three to stretch the lead to 17. Not to be outdone, Leonard then scored three straight times including two clean threes. Lowry then hit a rim-running Valanciunas to earn his 10th assist and increase the lead to 26.
Wade then re-entered the game and proceeded to claw the Heat back into it. He hit a cool mid-range pull-up, stepped back for a three, hit a Curry-esque scoop shot, and got Anunoby to bite on another pump fake. Bam Adebayo then earned a few sets of free-throws by sheer force of will and some Heats shooters not named Ellington finally got a few long shots to fall. The Raptors were outscored 27-13 over the final 6:45 of the quarter and somehow still won the quarter by three, entering the final frame up 101-89.
The teams traded hoops until Wade got a shooters roll from the deep corner and hit a pull up three the following possession, cutting the lead to 8. However, Fred VanVleet responded with three huge baskets including a deceptive pull-back midranger to keep the Heat at bay. Wade did all he could to cut the lead below 10 again but his team was simply outmatched on this night. Lowry’s three from the logo (!) that stretched the lead to 15 with 4:45 left was the nail in the coffin. Wade missed some ill-advised shots late in his pursuit of 40 and the Raptors defended well enough to prevent the Heat from getting any ideas about a comeback as they only cut it to 10 on a meaningless Richardson three with under a minute remaining.
Ultimately, the Raptors won 125-115 to stretch their winning streak to five. The loss is the Heat’s seventh in their last nine games; strange territory for such a competitive franchise. For those concerned about the Raptors recent struggles from deep, this game likely didn’t help as they shot a mere 31%. Still, they beat a team with solid rim protection 60-38 in points in the paint, so it’s hard to be worried about much following this win.
The Raptors are back in action Tuesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies