After watching the Raptors rally back to tie the game early in the fourth quarter, the Heat absolutely dominated the rest of the way to cruise past Toronto for their 22nd straight victory, matching the 2007-08 Rockets for the second longest streak in NBA history.
Here are some thoughts on the game…
- After Rudy Gay scored 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting on Friday night against the Bobcats, I was skeptical as to whether Gay could enjoy another efficient offensive outing with LeBrom James primarily guarding him. Well pessimism be damned, because Gay was as good as I’ve seen him in a Raptors uniform today versus King James. Rudy attacked the basket, saw the floor and moved the ball well, crashed the glass and even hit a couple of threes, though I still don’t like him attempting six three-pointers. He finished the day with 27 points on 11-of-20 shooting to go along with eight rebounds and four assists and has now scored 55 points on over 61 per cent shooting over his last two games. The question with Gay is can he turn a couple of good shooting nights into three or four in a row and eventually, a good stretch of efficient basketball?
- The starting frontcourt of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas continues to produce reason for optimism, as the pair play within themselves, are efficient on the offensive end, responsible on the defensive end and aggressive on the boards. Johnson grabbed 18 rebounds just two days after hauling in 21 against the Bobcats and Valanciunas scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting just two days removed from scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. As a duo, Johnson and Valanciunas combined for 36 points on just 26 field goal attempts to go with 25 rebounds on Sunday afternoon.
- While Gay, Johnson and Valanciunas did their best to keep the Raptors in it, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan weren’t nearly good enough today for the Raptors to actually have a chance of taking down Miami. DeRozan, at least, showed some life to help the Raptors rally in the third quarter, but Lowry was a complete non-factor from start to finish, finishing scoreless on 0-of-7 shooting without getting to the free throw line and only dishing out three assists in over 29 minutes of action.
- No one backing Lowry up was much better today, as the Raptors’ three point guards (Lowry, Sebastian Telfair and John Lucas III) combined to go scoreless on 13 field goal attempts while handing out a whopping seven assists. The Raptors as a team had just 15 assists on 39 field goals, with Gay’s four dimes serving as the team-high.
- Other than 12 points from Terrence Ross and four points from Landry Fields, the Raptors’ bench was pitiful on Sunday, with Telfair, Anderson and Lucas combining for zero points on 0-of-12 shooting.
- One of the silver linings in the Raptors’ being out of the race in March is that Dwane Casey is more inclined to play Toronto’s rookies, and over the last week, Ross has taken advantage of that playing time. The dunk contest champion has logged at least 24 minutes in four straight games dating back to last Sunday’s win over the Cavaliers while averaging 12 points on over 50 per cent shooting during that span.
- The Heat are obviously the vastly superior team and likely would have found a way to win regardless, but the Raptors also made it too easy for Miami for large stretches of this game. The formula for beating the Heat starts with taking care of the ball, but the Raptors turned the ball over 16 times, including 11 careless turnovers in the first half alone. In addition, the Heat got to the free throw line 29 times compared to the Raptors’ 12 (Toronto only attempted one free throw in the first half) and shot over 58 per cent from the field.
- You often hear of great teams being able to turn the “switch” on and off when they need to, and the Heat have clearly mastered the art of turning that switch during this historic run. Nowhere was that more apparent than in the fourth quarter of this game, when after allowing the Raptors to tie it at 77 with about 11 minutes remaining, the Heat proceeded to go on a quick 12-0 run and a 28-4 run in less than seven minutes. Again…28-4 in less than seven minutes.
- If this Heat team stays healthy, it seems unlikely that anyone will get in the way of a Miami repeat, but I do still believe that a deep defensive team with a legitimate post presence can give the Heat trouble. The Pacers and a Bulls team with a healthy Derrick Rose can steal a couple of games from Miami in an Eastern Conference playoff series, the Gasol/Randolph led Grizzlies could probably give them a scare if they got some major breaks along the way to actually get to the Finals (not likely), but the team with the best chance of actually dethroning the Heat is a healthy Spurs squad, with all due respect to the loaded Thunder. Charles Barkley has made the point all seasons – San Antonio (and Memphis to a lesser extent) has the best chance of any Western Conference team of actually beating Miami in the NBA Finals, but they may not be able to beat Oklahoma City in the West Final first.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Amir Johnson – 18 Pts, 9/18 FG, 18 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO in 36:54
Heat Player Of the Game: LeBron James – 22 Pts, 6/12 FG, 2/6 3PT, 8/11 FT, 12 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO in 33:50