For a instant, the prospect of an enthralling finish was in sight. Rudy Gay’s second free throw was good, and the Toronto Raptors had pulled into a 77-77 tie with the might Miami Heat, early in the fourth quarter. But the Heat, experienced spoilsports that they are, had other plans. The Raps’ shooting skills disappeared, as did their defense. Miami went on a 17-2 run, and the game entered garbage time so quickly it felt like the game’s brief knotted score had been an illusion. The Heat’s twenty-second consecutive victory was in the books.
Miami’s multiple weapons were on full display during their fourth quarter onslaught. LeBron James gave the illusion of wanting to pour in another 3-ball from the top of the circle (as he did to close out the first half). Instead he dished hard no-look passes to Ray Allen twice and once to Shane Battier for corner 3-balls, all of which went splash. Allen entered the final quarter with four points, and exited it with 20.
The Raps needed to perform at a near-perfect level to defeat a Miami team currently playing on a higher plane than anyone else on the planet. While Amir Johnson was superb once again, and Rudy Gay contributed 27 points, the team couldn’t overcome deeply disappointing results from the starting backcourt. DeMar DeRozan, whose outside shooting has gone AWOL, was missing layups but recovered slightly in the second half to finish with 12 points on 17 shots. At least he made a few – Kyle Lowry was zero for seven. In fact, none of our three point guards could manage a bucket or a free throw. Alan Anderson also booked a donut. Our rookies were more than respectable. Jonas Valanciunas even was allowed to play in the final quarter, after Amir had to leave due to a bloody nose. JV missed only one shot, and hit all four free throws he tried, on his way to 18 points, matching Amir. Terrence Ross managed 12 points, but slipped a number of times for no apparent reason while handling the ball.
Miami reminds me of San Antonio; both teams carve up their opponents in a nearly surgical manner. The Heat pass with great precision and purpose, often leading to easy baskets. Both teams scored 39 field goals, but the Raptors needed 27 more shots to do so. Miami took two more 3-ball tries than Toronto, and made 8 more. They also owned the charity stripe, taking 29 free throws to the home team’s 12. That’s not a gripe; the game was well-refereed, and many of the Raps’ fouls were of the “no easy basket for you, pal” kind.
If Miami doesn’t advance to the NBA finals, I’ll be astonished. They are the best team I’ve seen this year.
The Raps next see action on Wednesday in Charlotte.
Brian Boake is a co-editor 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.