LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Heat proved too much for a resilient Raptors squad in Miami, but the Raptors did plenty of shooting themselves in the foot too.
Here are some thoughts on yet another heartbreaking loss…
- The first three quarters went to script, as I predicted earlier in the game thread. The Raptors got off to a good start and held a lead through the first half before the Heat made a big third quarter run to take the lead (after going up 10-8 in the first few minutes, Miami didn’t retake the lead until the final few minutes of the third quarter when they went up 75-73). Where things veered off course was the fact that the Raps actually then fought back to force overtime and take some late leads of their own, where as I expected they would fold up under the enormous talent gap once the Heat made their run.
So credit the Raptors for an incredible effort and an encouraging fight back against the defending champs and the best player in the world, but as mentioned above, Toronto also shot themselves in the foot in a game that actually became winnable late.
- The Raptors were able to build an early lead, which grew as large as 15 points in the second quarter, thanks to good ball movement and a lack of turnovers on offence while also buckling down on defence well before the Heat did in this game. As an example of those first two points about the early offence, the Raps recorded eight assists on 11 made field goals in the first quarter and didn’t commit a turnover for the first 22 minutes of the game (Toronto finished with 26 assists on 44 made field goals and only committed eight turnovers). Being the first team in over nine years to convert two four-point plays (Lowry and Anderson) in the same half helped, too.
- DeMar DeRozan showed good patience early and also showed off his improved court vision with seven assists on the night, including four of the team’s first six assists of the game, but DeRozan continues to struggle with his own offence and left us all wanting more down the stretch. DeMar attacked the basket as he should have late, but on the final Raptors’ play of regulation, he shied away from contact after a beautiful spin move in the lane instead of going into the contact, and his shot came up short without the benefit of free throws. In addition, DeRozan missed a couple of big free throws late and wasn’t enough of a presence on the glass. It wasn’t a horrible game from the 23-year-old by any stretch, but at the same time, as I’ve said a lot lately, it wasn’t good enough either.
- Alan Anderson, Dwane Casey and Kyle Lowry all made some bad decisions down the stretch that cost the Raptors in the end. Lowry was a little too sloppy with the ball in his hands late in the game and Anderson shot the Raptors out of the game in overtime as quickly as he shot them back into it in regulation, but my biggest issue on the night was with Casey, whose decision to ride Aaron Gray and John Lucas III in crunch time left me flabbergasted.
As Jack Armstrong figured out pretty early into Gray’s appearance in this game, the big man was useful during the brief stretch of time that the Heat clogged the middle with Joel Anthony, but other than that, Gray shouldn’t have touched the floor tonight. Instead, Casey left Gray in the game after Anthony exited, and even went back to him in the fourth quarter and then in overtime when Amir Johnson fouled out. Meanwhile, Ed Davis, who would have been fine manning the middle against a small Miami lineup, warmed the bench and didn’t replace Gray until the final 1:57 of OT.
- If there was one thing that might have convinced Casey to ride with Gray for seven minutes, it might have been the fact that the Raptors got dominated on the boards by a bad rebounding Heat team, 53-28. Even so, Gray’s rebounding doesn’t change the fact that the Raptors are basically playing four on five on the offensive end when he’s in the game late in a close contest.
- As for Lucas, he was called upon to run the two point guard unit with Lowry for a portion of the fourth quarter while Calderon rode the bench. Sure, the Heat may have won this game anyway given the discrepancy in talent, experience, etc., but the whole “we just lost to a much better team” argument would have been a lot easier to take if it wasn’t for these confusing and frustrating decisions from Casey down the stretch.
- LeBron James, man…LeBron James. At the end of the fourth quarter, after James had missed the potential game-winner at the buzzer and had committed a couple of bad turnovers late, I was thinking about how he wasn’t having as great of a game as we’re used to. Then I checked the boxscore, and promtly realized that he was closing in on his second triple-double of the season. LeBron finished with 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists while shooting over 50 per cent from the floor. Basically, he’s at the point where performances like this – a career game for the average player – are considered the norm. He’s simply on another planet right now, and as much as I’d prefer he has an off-night against the Raptors, it’s still fun to watch one of the most dominating players in NBA history do his thing.
LeBron and Wade, who scored a game-high 35 of his own, combined for 66 of the Heat’s 123 points in this one. And they did it on 25-of-42 shooting.
- Terrence Ross didn’t shoot the ball particularly well tonight (7-of-16), but he hit some big shots at key moments, played solid defence and added another two highlight reel dunks to his growing compilation. To be honest, I would have rather had him on the floor than DeRozan in overtime.
- If you feel like the Raptors have already lost their share of overtime games this season, there’s this:
Third time in team history #Raptors have dropped five OT games in a season – 2005-06 (1-9) and 2003-04 (6-5).
— RaptorsMR (@RaptorsMR) January 24, 2013
Toronto’s last three losses have all come in overtime, by a combined 16 points, with the Raps holding leads of at least 15 points in their last two losses and blowing double-digit leads in four of their last five losses. I know I’ve asked the question countless times already this season, but seriously, how many more heartbreakers will we have to sit through in 2012-13?
Raptors Player Of the Game: Amir Johnson – 15 Pts, 6/9 FG, 3/3 FT, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO in 32:00
Heat Player Of the Game: LeBron James – 31 Pts, 12/23 FG, 1/5 3PT, 6/7 FT, 10 Reb, 11 Ast, 3 TO in 44:50