Archive for the ‘Miami Heat’ Category

Game No. 63: Heat 96, Raptors 72

The Heat rested Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh for this one, and you can’t really blame them considering that they’re concerned with the postseason and winning a championship, not with being at full strength for a meaningless April game against the 22-win Raptors.

The Raps actually looked capable of hanging with the LeBron-led Heat in the first half, but put up a historically bad stinker of a second half (more on that later) to ensure loss No. 41.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I mentioned the historically bad second half sinking the Raptors, but I don’t think just using the words “historically bad” does those 24 minutes of Raptors “basketball” justice. The Raps headed into the break down 51-49, and were pretty much matching the Heat blow for blow, if not taking the game to them in the first two quarters. They then came out and put a measly 11 points on the board in the third quarter, and barely topped themselves with 12 more in the fourth quarter. 23 points in 24 minutes – the worst second half offensive performance in Raptors history, and tied for the worst half in franchise history. Miami’s defence can be scary good at times, and it was definitely stingy on this night, but make no mistake, the Raptors’ offence was downright ugly in that second half. My original online feed actually cut out midway through the third quarter, and I assume it was just the Basketball Gods trying to save me from one of the worst hours of basketball I’d ever see.

2- If there was one positive from this pitiful performance, it was the production the Raptors got from the small forward position, as Alan Anderson and James Johnson combined for 33 points on about 47 per cent shooting (14-of-30), though obviously, much of that damage was done in the first half, when the Raps actually looked like a professional basketball team. I don’t anticipate many new storylines coming up in the last week of the Raptors’ season, but I am interested in seeing if Anderson can continue to build on his surprising performance with Toronto, and if he can actually win himself a spot on the Raptors’ roster next season.

3- I’ve given the Raptors’ bench bigs some praise recently – heck, I even gave Solomon Alabi some love on Monday night – but the big men were a big weakness in this game. Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray, Ed Davis and Alabi combined for just 15 points, 15 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and one steal. Again, those are the combined numbers of four players.

4- A few words on the Heat. I didn’t pick Miami to win the NBA championship this season (and I actually picked the Bulls to win the East), but anyone who’s totally writing them off on the foolish premise that they’ve struggled at times during the regular season and because they aren’t exceptional on the road is dreaming. In case you forgot, this team never looked particularly sharp last season, and then proceeded to cruise through the first three rounds of the playoffs, including a dominating performance by LeBron and co. at Chicago in the Eastern Conference Final. I’ll stick with my prediction of Chicago taking the East crown this season, because I actually believe the Bulls are the best team in the East, but I’m not naive enough to think Miami’s random “troubles” at various times during the regular season are an indication of an early playoff implosion either.

5- Sticking with the Heat, I’ll come right out and say it: If you don’t think LeBron James is the MVP this season, you need some sort of psychiatric evaluation, or you’re hate is clouding your judgement. Either way, you’re way, wayyy off. If LeBron were having a legendary season for a team on the outside of the playoff picture, or a team on the playoff bubble, I could see justification for going with Kevin Durant for NBA MVP. But the fact is that James is averaging 27 points, eight rebounds, six assists, two steals and nearly a block per game for a team that would be on pace for about 60 wins in a regular 82-game schedule. Add to that the fact that he has a ridiculous Player Efficiency Rating over 30, which is far and away better than anyone else in the Association, and you can see why LeBron’s 2011-2012 season is seen by many as one of the greatest regular seasons we’ve ever seen. I’ll be the first to admit that I hated “The Decision,” and I’ve taken exception with a lot of things LeBron has said since then, but you can’t hold those things (or his 2011 Finals performance) against him in judging his remarkable feats this season. He’s the MVP this year. Case closed.

6- If you take a look at the Raptors’ upcoming schedule, you’ll see that Wednesday night’s contest in Miami was likely Toronto’s last game against a winning team this season (unless the Bucks finish with a winning record), and if I just counted correctly, the Raps will finish with an abysmal 11-29 record against winning teams. While they often performed well above our expectations in most of those 40 games, many Raptors fans will look at that record from a “Tank Nation” perspective and say it’s to their liking. If you look at the standings with a week to go, you’ll notice that unless the pathetically tanking Cavaliers and Kings win a few games, the Raptors will likely end up finishing somewhere between sixth from the bottom and ninth from the bottom (and they could still finish 10th from the bottom if the Timberwolves don’t win another game), so to be honest, I think it’s time to put the whole Tank Nation thing to bed. Let whatever is going to happen over the next three games happen, and we’ll see where that lands us come next Thursday night, and come the lottery in May.

Raptors Player of the Game: James Johnson – 25 Min, 18 Pts, 7-12 FG, 1-2 3PT, 3-3 FT, 6 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 TO

Heat Player of the Game: LeBron James – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 12-15 FG, 1-1 3PT, 3-4 FT, 5 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 5 TO

Miami Heat dancers

Start time: 7:30 PM ET
Channel: Sportsnet One
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray
Miami: Mario Chalmers, Terrel Harris, LeBron James, Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony

Injury report

Toronto: Jose Calderon will be a game-time decision, while Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are out for the season.

Miami: Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Ronny Turiaf will sit this game out.

Well, it seems as though the Heat have resigned themselves to the number two seed in the East with six games left on their schedule, even though they’re two-and-a-half games behind Chicago and four games ahead of Indiana. They’re going to rest D-Wade and Bosh tonight, which means the Raptors might actually be able to make a game of this.

In spite of the fact that they’ve been fairly mediocre of late, I’m still picking Miami to come out of the East in the playoffs. I’m forecasting a Heat-Spurs final, with the Spurs emerging victorious just like they did in the shortened 1998-99 season. Wouldn’t it be great if the Heat were like the 1990-1993 Buffalo Bills and lost in four consecutive championship series? I’d enjoy that.

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A Charlotte Bobcats fan who claims to have watched or listened to every Bobcats game started an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit. He got over 272 responses.

Game No. 52: Heat 113, Raptors 101

The “Hollywood as Hell” Heat on a Friday night, a sold out Air Canada Centre and a crowd that was just waiting for a reason to explode. The atmosphere was set for a great night of basketball in Toronto, and the undermanned Raptors did their part in trying to deliver.

The Raps were able to undo a horrible start with an improved effort, but ultimately, the talent gap between the two teams took precedence.

Here are some thoughts on the game.

1- This game played out a lot like the Raptors’ home loss to the Lakers in February, where Toronto fell behind a vastly superior team out of the gate, fought back to get back in the game, and then fell apart to take another home defeat. On Friday, the Raptors found themselves down 16-2 within minutes. The Heat never seemed like they wanted to go in for the kill though, and the Raps picked up their intensity level to hang around, cutting the deficit to four after one quarter and eventually sending the game to the fourth quarter tied at 83. I don’t know if the result was ever really in question, but the Raptors gave us reason to believe until the Heat threw one last knockout punch in the final minutes.

2- Another similarity between this game and the loss to the Lakers was the unbalanced officiating down the stretch. Yes, the Heat only took five more free throws than the Raptors, DeMar DeRozan had a game-high 10 free throw attempts, and the teams finished with 16 personal fouls a piece. But if you watched this game, you know which team the refs were siding with in the fourth quarter. The defining moment for me was Dwyane Wade managing to draw a foul on Jose Calderon despite leaning in and smacking Calderon in the face with the ball (Jose was given a tech for arguing), while at the other end, Wade flopped on a phantom elbow from James Johnson and drew an offensive foul. The big three of LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh combined for just two personal fouls in 111 total minutes. This team is already talented enough to win its share of ball games. They don’t need anymore help from the refs.

3- After two visits from the Heat over the last couple of seasons, one thing has become clear, they’re not quite the draw I thought they’d still be in year two. Any time a team has three All Stars and two future Hall of Famers, they’re going be worth watching and a team that brings people to the arena, but in all honesty, did either of Chris Bosh’s two returns to Toronto with his superstar teammates even amount to half of the hype and buzz Vince Carter generated for his first five or six returns to the ACC? Heck, I don’t even think Miami brought the same buzz into Toronto that the Lakers brought this season. I don’t know whether to blame it on the fact that Bosh is just too dry to generate much of a response from fans or to simply blame it on the fact that our attention span and focus on a sports craze is as short as ever. Whatever it is, the Heat hype has seemingly already started to fade.

4- From an individual standpoint, there were a few Raptors performances worth mentioning. Jose Calderon’s 16 assists made it five straight games with 10 or more for the Spaniard and increased his total to 74 assists over seven games since his return to the lineup. DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani were a formidable offensive duo, combining for 55 points on 19-of-34 shooting, but neither did much of anything else on the floor to help the Raptors (though at least DeRozan got to the line 10 times). The most encouraging performance came from Amir Johnson, who put up a double-double of 12 points (on 6-of-8 shooting) and 12 rebounds in 30 minutes. With Aaron Gray’s play beginning to slow down, I wonder if another strong showing or two from Amir will get him back into the starting lineup before the season is over.

5- As obnoxious as I find the Heat, I’m not naive enough to ignore the fact that they’re a great team and are obviously very capable of winning an NBA championship this season. Having said that, and despite the abundance of talent they possess between three players, I still don’t think they are the best team in the NBA, or even in the Eastern Conference for that matter. The Bulls and Thunder are the better teams and the more balanced teams, in terms of how their talent is spread out throughout the various positions and the bench. I know LeBron and the Heat turned it on against the Bulls in the East Final last season, but if Derrick Rose is healthy, Chicago can even the score this year.

By the way, did you catch Bosh’s dunk to give the Heat a 12-point lead in the final seconds? More importantly, did you catch Chris get all excited about it and talk smack as if he did something meaningful? It’s because he’s a tough guy, you know, the kind of tough guy that splashes around by himself in a wading pool for the Maxim cameras. I’ve always been a fan of Bosh’s game, but has there ever been a more accurate assessment of him than Kevin Durant’s “fake tough guy” claim?

6- A large portion of the crowd roared when the Raptors eclipsed the 100-point mark (free pizza) in a losing cause again, but on this night, they weren’t even close to being the most disappointing fans in the building. That title goes to the hundreds of “fans” who showed up in Heat jerseys in a feeble attempt to pass as supporters. Give me a friggin break. I used to see a handful of Wade jerseys in the stands when the Raptors would host the Heat in the old days. Now all of a sudden there’s a plethora of Miami fans living 2400 km away in Toronto? It’s bad enough that non deserving “fans” in Miami are trying to play the part of passionate fanatics right now, but to see weak-minded followers in different markets latching on to any bandwagon they think can deliver instant gratification is simply pathetic.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 30 Min, 12 Pts, 6-8 FG, 12 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO (As good as Jose was, and as strong an offensive game as DeMar and Andrea had, Amir was probably the most complete Raptor in this game in terms of playing on both ends of the floor)

Heat Player of the Game: Dwyane Wade – 36 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 1-2 3PT, 5-7 FT, 6 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk (Bosh and LeBron were each dominant as well, as the Big Three combined for 86 points)

Start time: 7:00 PM ET
Channel: TSN2
Probable starting lineups
Toronto: Jose Calderon, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Andrea Bargnani, Aaron Gray
Miami: Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony

Injury report

Toronto: James Johnson is a gametime decision. Jerryd Bayless is out for the season.

Miami: Mike Miller is out indefinitely.

On the one hand, the Heat have lost two of their last three games. On the other hand, they crushed the defending champion Dallas Mavericks by 21 points last night. Which team will show up at the Air Canada Centre tonight? It probably won’t matter, since the Raptors are 0-5 against Miami’s superteam.

James Johnson will be a gametime decision because of a respiratory infection. I’m hoping he can play, but I don’t think anyone else on this team has a prayer of covering LeBron. In his four games against the Raptors since he joined the Heat, LeBron has averaged 28.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 7.3 assists.

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In case you missed it, we recorded and posted another episode of RaptorBlog Radio earlier today. We talked to Raptors’ Director of Sports Science, Alex McKechnie, about Jonas Valanciunas and his physical readiness for the NBA game.

Game No. 25: Heat 95, Raptors 89

The Raptors were coming off of a nice home win against the lowly Wizards on Friday night, but obviously needed a much bigger and better effort against the star-studded Heat for their Super Bowl Sunday matinee. Well, they delivered, even despite the loss.

Now here are six thoughts on the game:

1- For the last couple of days leading up to this game, I’ve heard Dwane Casey and Raptors players talk about how they had to come out swinging. I wondered if they could really match the Heat’s intensity to start, but they actually more than matched it. The starting five of Calderon, Bayless, DeRozan, James Johnson and Gray did, in fact, come out swinging, and had a 15-14 lead five minutes into the ball game, rather than already being in a deep hole. Though they failed to win the first quarter for the 13th straight game, the Raptors set a competitive tone early on that they kept up for the majority of the game.

2- Where it went wrong. The Raptors did a good job of punching back and battling against some Heat pushes in the first half, but you had to know Miami had at least one big run in them, and it eventually came in the third quarter. The Raps turned the ball over six times over about a six-minute span, and the Heat went on an 18-3 run to stretch a one-point lead all the way up to 16. For all intents and purposes, that’s when the result of this ball game was cemented. Leandro Barbosa’s careless offence really cost Toronto during this Miami run.

3- I wonder what this game would have looked like if Jose Calderon had been his usual self today. The usually cautious Calderon, who leads the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio, was glued to the bench for the majority of the second half with five turnovers compared to just three assists. Jerryd Bayless played well enough in Calderon’s absence, and made some big buckets to keep the game close down the stretch, but at times it was obvious the Raptors were missing a true distributor in their offence.

4- DeMar DeRozan picked a pretty good game to put together one of his best performances of the season. DeRozan scored 25 points on just 16 field goal attempts and got to the free throw line 11 times. He attacked the basket relentlessly, took the action right to LeBron James and for the most part, kept his intensity up despite guarding LeBron or Dwyane Wade on the defensive end. DeMar was most impressive in the first quarter, where he scored 11 points and showed off a surprising offensive arsenal by scoring in a variety of ways. We saw this from DeRozan last Sunday against the Nets, but he was unable to build off of that performance. Hopefully he can make something out of this one.

On a random sidenote for DeRozan, he is now tied with Vince Carter for the third longest streak of consecutive starts (107) in franchise history. DeRozan deserves credit for starting so many NBA games at such a young age, but make no mistake, it’s also a sign of how thin the Raptors have been at the wing positions in recent years.

5- Another young piece of the puzzle that I thought stepped up today was Ed Davis. His numbers (eight points, eight rebounds, two blocks in 29 minutes) may not jump off the page, but watching Davis against the Heat was encouraging. He was active on defence and on the glass, he was moving well off the ball, and he was the efficient offensive player (four-of-five from the field) that we saw last season. Over the last week or so, Davis is starting to look more like the impressive rookie that gave us high hopes, and today, even made a couple of face-up mid-range shots that could make him a much more complete player. Could this be the beginning of Davis finally rounding into form this season?

6- Perspective and expectations. In this rebuilding season more about growth and development rather than wins and losses, it’s important for Raptors fans, just like coaches and management, to have some perspective and temper expectations. Despite the loss, Toronto’s 25th in 33 games played, this was definitely one of their best performances. Without their best player in Andrea Bargnani, against a Heat team that is really starting to get healthy, the Raptors legitimately competed from start to finish, other than a seven or eight minute span in the third quarter. Like most fans, I’m not usually into moral victories, but seeing this team compete with an elite team on the road because of young building blocks like DeRozan and Davis is better to me than if they had beat the Heat on the backs of guys like Calderon and Barbosa.

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I’m not naive enough or enough of a homer to believe the Raptors are even in the Heat’s league right now, but I will admit that I am very intrigued to see how the Raps will match up against Miami when the two teams tangle in Toronto on March 30. With a hopefully healthy Bargnani, a raucous Air Canada Centre crowd (which would put the dull Miami crowd to shame) and by then, an improved zone defence, I think the Raps can give the Heat some trouble, and might even be able to come away with an upset W.

Enjoy the game tonight.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 37 Min, 25 Pts, 8-16 FG, 0-1 3PT, 9-11 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO

Heat Player of the Game: LeBron James – 38 Min, 30 Pts, 10-17 FG, 0-1 3PT, 10-12 FT, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 5 TO (The Raptors did end LeBron’s ridiculous streak of consecutive games with at least 15 points, five or more rebounds and five or more assists.)