The Raptors didn't make it tough enough for the Heat Sunday

The Raptors didn’t make it tough enough for the Heat on Sunday

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…

Heat 108, Raptors 91

- 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

Comments (15)

  1. memphis you are kidding joe, they run out of gas in the 4th quarters (randolph/gasol are tired), and bench is thin. OKC has the “firepower” and match grizz’s defense also.
    Prince checking James, didn’t do well back in 07, 09 (i believe), what makes you think he will do better now

    • I didn’t say that Memphis would beat the Thunder in a playoff series or that they would win the West. I said they’re a tougher matchup for the Heat than the Thunder are because of their interior presence. As I said, the Grizz would need to catch some major breaks to actually come out of the West (namely, needing San Antonio and OKC to be hit with injuries).

  2. Pacers lol come on its the heat mabe they will win a couple games off them off the heat but to beat the heat four games no way the spuns are way to old to make it to the finals

    • You said “Pacers lol come on its the heat mabe they will win a couple games off them”

      I never said the Pacers can actually beat the Heat in a series, what I actually said was “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.” Which is exactly what you’re saying.

      As for the Spurs being too old, age has nothing to do with it when it comes to this team. As long as San Antonio is healthy (assuming Tony Parker is 100% by then), they’re my pick in the West.

  3. OKC is the only team with a chance, only time will tell if KD can surpass James, and guaranteed it will be the same two teams for this years finals. Miami is going to take it because in the NBA more times than not it takes the premier player of the league (top dog) to win the title.

  4. in the end LBJ is going to be 1 of the best players ever with 3 or 4 rings and lots of MVP Awards no one can guard him in the NBA

  5. just using the ol’ eye test, but john lucas proved yet again that – as often as he hits a hot one from outside – he’s the first domino in a defensive collapse.

  6. watced jordan play LBJ has better all around game than jordan had they should not be talking about the next Jordan all the time they should be saying who will be the next LBJ

  7. The era of athletes dominating the competition ( Jordan, Gretzky ) is over, but Lebron is the best player of all time IMO, if he wanted to take 30+ shots a game he could and he could set every scoring record there is

    • This is the thing with Lebron that I don’t think people take into account.

      Like for example, it’s quite clear he could EASILY average a triple-double this season.

      But because of the team-player that he is he does not want to. Rare for an elite NBA player to take the road.

      Yet, bottom-line types would rather just point to the numbers. L:ike, ‘first player since Oscar to average a triple-double!’.

      People who know, know he does not *need* to do that.

      Let

      • Got cut-off there.

        When all is said and done, people may not be able to say he is better than MJ but he’s the first player since MJ (yup I’m leap-frogging Kobe) where people will have to give it REAL thought though.

        .

        • I agree that LeBron’s dominance is the closest thing to Jordan (though not Jordan) that we’ve seen since Jordan, and also agree that LeBron>Kobe. As I’ve said for a while now, LeBron surpassed Kobe years ago.

          • I hate to you his size as an argument, (who knows what players are capable of if they all had lebrons body) but he can guard LITERALLY anyone in the league, and as good as it looks I don’t see Kobe or kd running back and maybe not even getting a block, but his presence alone on the breakaway layups makes players think and have to worry about him,

            It’s a non contact sport so it’s hard to compare, but he’s an ELITE superstar and has a work ethic and hussle a lot like Crosby is showing

            Nostalgia is such a big reason to people when they talk about athletes and stuff like that, but honestly your kids when they understand sports will be talking and asking about just how good Lebron was

  8. I’d give the Pacers a very slim punchers-chance.

    Not *really* but I think they could push it to 6 games.

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