Danny Green eulogized the game pretty well in his interview with Eric Smith. Evoking the esoteric knowledge that moving the ball creates open shots, and open shots have a better chance of going in. The Raptors did just that in this one, piling up over 30 assists for the 15th time this year, as the Raptors tied a franchise record from downtown (21 makes). A welcome sight, of course, with Kawhi Leonard “load managing”.
The Raptors handled this one with relative ease from beginning to end, the Heat’s largest lead was a measly two points, the Raptors 12 times larger than that. Nick Nurse opted to start Serge Ibaka in this one, and was rewarded early as Ibaka played the energetic and imposing Bam Adebayo quite well. On offense, Kyle Lowry worked to push the pace from tip-off with Pascal Siakam and Danny Green more than happy to run out in transition as well. An incredibly impressive start when you consider that this was an early afternoon game and the Raptors had just spent a Saturday night in Miami.
The Raptors strong start is embodied in this change of possession:
Any team would be happy to break open a game like the Raptors did. Hitting 7 triples in the first quarter and punching the opposing starting five in the mouth. The Heat counterpunched, though. The unruly bench duo of Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic yielded some early results as Whiteside pounded away inside, and Dragic brought his usual grimy playstyle into the fray. Dwyane Wade mixed in his heady shot-making, and the Lin-Gasol led bench unit struggled to match blows, at first.
Nurse found the fix for the bench unit. After staggering Green and Siakam with them at first, and losing those minutes, he opted to run Lowry for the full duration of the second quarter to add some dynamic play to the bench. Lowry + bench has long been a success story for the Raptors, and it’s not particularly surprising that it worked well in this case. With both Lin and Lowry occupying ball-handling duties, the trio of McCaw-Powell-Anunoby was relegated to off-ball cutting and spot-up shooting. They responded in spades, Powell especially. His proclivity for winding his way through the paint replaced by straight line attacks and decisive spot-up shooting, a welcome sight. McCaw hit two corner triples, and sparked conversations about his time with Golden State, naturally. Anunoby stood up a couple drives and got out on the run as often as he could.
Oh yeah, Ibaka put down the first of 2 incredible dunks in this game. The other belonging to Derrick Jones Jr.
After an aesthetically pleasing half, which was wonderful to see after the Pelicans game, the Raptors fell into the same problem again. After the success Nurse had with Lowry + bench, he went back to Siakam with that group, which wasn’t overly successful. It’s not Siakam’s fault he doesn’t lift the group up above his head, but he doesn’t stir the pot for them like Lowry does. Like usual, the Raptors offense ground to a halt when Lin was running things (All 4 bench players had an ORTG of less than 70 in this quarter) and they couldn’t manage to get out in transition either. The Heat weren’t sharp at the other end, but they hunted for looks inside and found some. The Raptors played a bit sloppy with the ball as well, and sprung the Heat in transition a time to many, losing their only quarter of the day – oh, so close to that vaunted “complete game”.
The conventional wisdom would be that Lin generally needs to be paired with Lowry to be a valuable player. His usage rate is generally quite high (it should be, he’s leading the bench units) but that needs to start coming a long with meaningful production. It’s also worth noting that every player is generally better when they play with Lowry, and the players who can sustain efficient production without him are really valuable to the second unit. Gasol has done this some games, and every once in a while Powell emerges with a cape on and some shot-making, but the bench squad has some real issues to sort out when it comes to generating quality offense.
With a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, Nurse went back to the Lowry + bench lineup, and in news that shocked nobody, it was a positive. Lin was using pick n’ rolls as a secondary action against a defense that had already been shaken up and he found room in the interior of the Heat defense. Gasol took no shots, but acted as a conduit for the offense, receiving the ball and spraying it all over the floor. The Heat defense wasn’t generally interested in bouncing between Gasol and the perimeter, so enough passes led to open looks. Lin made a crafty pass to Anunoby on the baseline, Gasol found him for a huge dunk before that.
It was all good feels in the fourth, though. Lowry made the bench group go, Anunoby dunked, Gasol passed, Lin hit a triple, and Malcolm Miller stepped in to make it rain as well – He should get more minutes by the way, maybe sneak a couple away from McCaw or Powell.
The Raptors pack up quickly and will be in Cleveland the night of the 11th to face the Cavaliers. The road to 60 is still alive, but it’s gonna take a meaningful run to get there, likely fuelled by a couple hot shooting nights like this one.
@RYE, I tried the Marlin tacos, mate. Sublime.
Have a blessed day.