48-19 heading into the stretch run
The ball moved (32 assists), the shots were wide open (a franchise-record tying 21 threes on 40 attempts), and the pace was high, to the delight of large representation of Raptors fans in town for March Break, with ‘Let’s Go Raptors’ chants drowning out ‘Let’s Go Heat’ for most of the afternoon.
Kyle Lowry was brilliant with 25 points and 10 assists – “it’s the warm weather man” – while Pascal Siakam finished with 20 points and five assists on 12 shots as the Raptors shot 57 per cent from the floor and 53 per cent from deep to off-set 21 turnovers.
Central to several themes was the presence and performance of little-used Patrick McCaw in the Raptors starting lineup in place of Kawhi Leonard who sat for the third straight Sunday due to ‘load management.’
Maybe it was a nod to the toll the city of Miami can take on visiting teams, maybe it was a hunch, but giving McCaw – a clever free-agent signing over Christmas – 26 minutes to bring his unique brand of all-out energy proved to be a wise choice by Raptors head coach Nick Nurse.
“He was unbelievable man,” said Raptors point guard Lowry. “The kid did a great job tonight. Followed the game plan to a ‘T’. Just given an opportunity and taking advantage of it. That was a great, great game by him. The numbers won’t say it, but he had an unbelievable game.”
McCaw was excellent in Leonard’s place, providing solid defence along with an unexpected burst of offence (10 points, including 3-for-3 work from beyond the arc).
“The biggest thing that I always get concerned off of, especially down here, is the energy (of the Heat) to start the game,” Nurse said afterward.
“They play with tremendous energy in general, and down here especially. They like to have (Justise) Winslow run the point and we thought Patrick’s speed, we’d stick him in there and try to disrupt that from the start and that would give us an overall jolt, maybe slow them down a little and get us going. It was big. And he shot the ball on top of that, which is an extra bonus. The shooting gods were with us today, there’s no question about that.”
That they were.
“It’s frustrating, our coverages were there,” Heat guard Goran Dragic insisted. “We were just a step slow. They were shooting 67% from three. It’s tough to win games like that,” he said.
A Miami team that is fighting to make the playoffs was full of energy, but had all kinds of trouble executing. Retiring star Dwyane Wade led his team’s reserves with 15 points off of the bench, but Miami shot 46% from the field compared to Toronto’s scorching 57% and the Raptors improved to 48-19.
McCaw, who the Raptors picked up back in January and are intrigued by, laughed when a reporter pointed out that, with 32 assists and 21 three-point makes, the Raptors reminded observers a bit of McCaw’s former team, the Golden State Warriors.
“It’s exciting. When we’re playing defence and we’re getting out in transition and running and guys are knocking down shots it’s fun to watch and also to play and seeing my teammates having fun out there and being a part of it is always special,” McCaw said.
McCaw impressed his teammates, including Lowry.
There’s a big gap between the Heat (31-35) and the top teams in the Eastern Conference. If the standings aren’t enough to convince you, Sunday’s blowout loss to the Raptors should have done it.
Even without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard (load management), the Raptors — which are in second place in the East — controlled the game from start to finish. Toronto took a 5-4 lead with 10:27 remaining in the first quarter and never trailed again.
The Raptors are now 14-5 this season when Leonard is unavailable to play.
“They played like they were the No. 2 seed,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “There were obviously some things that if we could go back, we would do a little bit differently. But you could tell they prepared for us. They prepared for our zone and did things teams don’t normally do in our zone, and they made shots out of it.”
Eight Toronto players finished with double-digit points, led by All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who finished with a game-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Pascal Siakam also made a big impact with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“This is one of the top teams in the East for a reason, even without Kawhi,” Justise Winslow said. “They’re super solid defensively. Kyle does a great job of leading that team and getting exactly what he wants out of every possession from his guys. Hats off to them. They beat us fair and square tonight.”
Goran opened up the fourth with a big three to get Miami rolling. Unfortunately, the Raptors weren’t done continuing their offensive assault and pulling out ahead once again. Also, it’s worth noting how strong the Raptors defense was in this, while the Heat were able to score in the midrange they barely got any clean three point looks.
Dwyane Wade worked to get Miami within 10 once again, but Kyle Lowry would dilute the effort by doing damage behind the arc on the other end.
The Heat made a good effort, but it just wasn’t enough as the Raptors once again took a 20 point lead. This was a tough loss in a hard fought battle. Hopefully the Heat can clean things up before Wednesday’s game against Detroit.
Whether in a zone or man-to-man defense, the Heat spent much of the afternoon in scramble mode as their scramble for a playoff position took a decided hit in a decidedly uninspired effort.
“We were just one step too slow,” Heat guard Goran Dragic said.
With a challenging remaining schedule that includes a game in Toronto, as well as two apiece against the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics, the Heat could not take advantage of the Raptors giving All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard the day off for rest.
The deficit reached double digits midway through the opening period, was 14 at halftime, stood at 17 in the third quarter and got worse from there, as Spoelstra burned through timeouts.
“You could just feel their intensity, and it didn’t wane,” Spoelstra said. “When you talk about feeling a team, we felt them.”
For all the Heat accomplished in the four-game winning streak entering the day, this was not the same as playing the Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets or Cleveland Cavaliers.
“They took advantage of our glitches.” Forward Josh Richardson said of the Raptors.
Point guard Kyle Lowry closed with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds to lead the Raptors, supported by 20 points from forward Pascal Siakam.
On multiple occasions this season, we’ve seen the Raptors come out of the halftime break sluggish and give up leads, but that wasn’t the case today. They kept their foot on the gas as they once again hit multiple threes to keep a comfortable lead. The only time they started to sweat was near the end of the third quarter, when they gave up a 9-4 run to end the quarter. In that little window, the Raptors went 2-of-7 from the field, and the Heat looked to be doing their usual grind-it-out Heat thing. Toronto was helped in the moment by Siakam forcing things for a few minutes. It was about the only time he played “poorly” in the game, as he went off for 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting, plus five rebounds and five assists.
With the Heat cutting the lead to 12 to start the fourth, it became a game where Kyle Lowry was not going to let the team lose, hitting three after three and letting the Heat bench know about it too. Always remember: KLOE.
Another big part of the fourth was the aggressiveness of OG Anunoby. Toronto’s second-year forward has been finding himself as of late, and playing better basketball as a result. In this one, OG was driving to the basket and forcing fouls early, and later went off for a few possessions in a row with a dunk. It was that stretch in the fourth quarter, fuelled by Lowry, OG, and Siakam, that put away the Heat for good. The Raptors went up 111-91 with 5:37 left in the game and that was that.
It could have been an easy game for the Raptors to lose. As mentioned before, the circumstances leading into the game haven’t usually work in Toronto’s favour. But instead, this might have been their best overall performance of the season. They broke open a lead early, kept the pressure on, and when the Heat made a run to bring it back to single digits they locked in again and showed why they’re a top team in the East — and the league.
The Raptors close out to win decisively, 125-104. They converted a franchise record-tying 21 made 3-pointers to handle the Heat. Kyle Lowry was fantastic, stepping up in Kawhi Leonard’s absence with 24 points and 10 assists. Pascal Siakam scored 20 points and Norman Powell chipped in 15 points off the bench.
For the Heat, Bam Adebayo was a beast all game long with 19 points, six boards, five assists and two steals. Dwyane Wade finished with 15 points, four assists and three steals.
Live by the three: The Raptors had been connecting on 35 per cent of their three-point shots, a rate that ranked ninth in the NBA. But in the first quarter they overperformed from deep, knocking down eight of their first 14 treys. Those long-distance buckets accounted for 24 of Toronto’s first 45 points.
Thank you all for the kind words, I didnt expect such support and it’s got me in my feels. Cody was on his 3rd round of cancer. He was the strongest person I’ll ever had had the opportunity to know. He didnt miss a game. He could sit for hours and talk stats, how much he misses Demar, or what he was going to do when they get this championship this year. I’ll be watching it with him. He made sure we put his raps cap and Jersey in his casket with him. He was also an MVP for the special Olympics basketball team. I’d like to thank each and everyone one of them who showed up to his funeral yesterday. And a big thank you again to all of you here on reddit.
Edit: thank you everyone this is overwhelming, you guys are amazing.. thanks to those of you who have gilded this post, that’s a first for me.
The obvious benefit of The Kawhi Plan™ is that it all but guarantees Leonard will be as healthy as possible heading into the playoffs. Coming a year after Leonard played just nine games after quadriceps injury, there is some merit in building him back up at a measured rate rather than trying to force the star into 70 games. However, resting Leonard also opens up 30-plus more minutes on the wing than the Raptors would have otherwise. Seeing as the Raptors are basically stuck in the Eastern Conference’s second seed, this has some value.
In the playoffs, Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Danny Green and Pascal Siakam will all be at 30 or more minutes per game. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol will split the 48 centre minutes in some fashion. That will leave 60 or so minutes to split among a cast of perimeter-based players. Fred VanVleet and Jeremy Lin will battle for minutes sometimes and share them at others. The rest of the time will go to Norman Powell, OG Anunoby and Patrick McCaw.
There probably isn’t room for all three of them in any single series. In some series, it might be hard to work two in with any regularity.
“I think they can all kind of defend different people. But I think they’re also versatile,” Nurse said after the game. “I thought Norm did a heck of a job tonight on (Dwyane) Wade. He really worked him. We were debating who should have him, and we kept coming back to Norm. He really worked. He was changing up his coverages on him, he was making it difficult, he didn’t bite on his pump fakes. He did a really good job on him.”
PATRICK MCCAW (Raptors): Terrific day in Miami with his first start with his new team. He gets after it defensively, passes the ball decisively and has an excellent feel for the game. His confidence in his shot is growing. Really good pickup of a guy who learned the right way to do business as a pro in Golden State.
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