The Toronto Raptors had forged ahead by 8 points partway through the second quarter. Without warning, the Miami HEAT defense stiffened and didn’t relent. The Raps offense faltered badly and, with the exception of a brief flurry in Q4, never regained its footing. The HEAT cruised to an easy victory.
This game was eagerly anticipated by serious basketball fans, in the hope that the near-classic match of late January (won in overtime by the hometown HEAT) might have an exciting sequel, particularly with Rudy Gay wearing Raptor red. The game started poorly for the Raps, who didn’t score their third basket until nearly 7 minutes had passed. Fortunately DeMar DeRozan was attacking the basket, and by himself kept the HEAT in sight by hitting all 6 free throws, and adding 2 buckets. The Raps were only down three after 12 minutes, a flattering result.
For the first 10 minutes of Q2, the Raps could do little wrong. They poured in 29 points, many of them from Rudy Gay. The HEAT, with a more skilled front court (read: Chris Bosh) than ours, were not taking advantage. Yet a light bulb went off over coach Erik Spoelstra’s head. Once he decided he wasn’t going to lose this game on the perimeter, and began to pressure the ball, our spacing was ruined. Amir Johnson, our only credible inside threat, was hampered with foul trouble and couldn’t get untracked, finishing with one basket. Quincy Acy seems to be ensconced firmly in coach Casey’s doghouse, and never was asked to help. From the 2:41 mark of Q2 until 5:40 of Q3, the Raps didn’t score a basket. The lead was lost, and against the league champions, unlikely to be found.
The fourth quarter was a see-saw affair, in which the Raps managed to parlay some 3-balls into a comeback which saw them twice pull to within 3 points. However, a Bosh 3-ball let the air out of the tires, and the last few minutes were all Miami.
The HEAT’s Big 3 scored 81 of their squad’s points, many of them highlight-reel grade baskets. LeBron is a force of nature; he scored 30, with 7 assists and 8 boards, and was plus31. Dwayne Wade, the best slasher who isn’t named Kobe, added 23. All 3 shot over 50%.
Many Raps were disappointments this afternoon. Kyle Lowry was dreadful, with 5 turnovers against 3 lonely assists. Alan Anderson’s shooting is as chilly as the weather, in fact, each of the 4 non-starters scored precisely one basket. Jonas Valanciunas is on a tight leash, and had one rebound in 5+ minutes of inconsequential play.
We didn’t miss our traded players on Friday night, but we certainly missed them today. Landry Fields didn’t dress because of back spasms, and Andrea Bargnani was in street clothes.
Coach Casey is going to have to expand his rotation soon; we can’t win playing only small ball. It’s maddening to lose a game in which Rudy scores 29 and DeMar 27, but that will continue to happen without an inside threat.
The Boston Celtics are in town on Wednesday night.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.