The Toronto Raptors were trading punches with the NBA Champion Miami Heat, down by just four after 3 quarters. However, the Raps endured an abysmal start to the fourth quarter which cost them the game. The home team looked like high-schoolers, as Miami forced turnovers, ripped the ball out of DeMar DeRozan’s hands twice, and didn’t allow a field goal until fewer than four minutes remained. The Raps did make a late run, but a DD jumper to cut the Heat lead to four spilled out, and the champs put the hammer down.
Two-thirds of Miami’s Big Three were at the Air Canada Centre (Chris Bosh spared himself a lot of boos by staying in Florida to attend to his wife at the birth of their daughter – congrats to all), and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade put on a clinic. Anyone who thinks there isn’t a lot of separation between the brilliant James and the rest of the NBA isn’t paying attention. He scores almost at will, sets up his teammates, defends like a fiend, and pulls down rebounds. Am I missing something? Is he? I think not; with apologies to Shaq and Kobe, LeBron is the best NBA player since Michael Jordan. Wade is supposedly dealing with a chronic knee issue, but there were no signs of it last night. He’s always been a pleasure to watch, and was so again, draining a number of fadeaway jump shots on his way to 20 points.
The Raps started quickly, leading 7-0 and 19-10, and Jonas Valanciunas was red-hot in Q1. Our sophomore centre poured in 10 points, and was all over the boards. For reasons your correspondent can’t shed light on, JV spent much of Q2 on the bench, and the Heat kept plugging away, finally taking the lead just before intermission. King James was scoring inside, and the Raps were taking, and mostly missing, 3 balls. Terrence Ross did hit three in the Q, but could only muster a pair of free throws after that.
Amir Johnson was the only Rap who registered a plus (7) for the game, yet didn’t see the floor in the decisive fourth quarter. Dwane Casey didn’t reinsert JV until eight minutes had gone. Why D.J. Augustin was playing, and turning over the ball, while our bigs were sitting, was one of several curious choices made by our coach. His love of small ball will be the noose that hangs him, metaphorically speaking, if he doesn’t begin to strike a balance between it and more conventional lineups featuring his big men.
The Raps have flown to Charlotte for a tilt tonight against the Bobcats, who surprised the Knicks in NYC last night.
Brian Boake is Senior 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.
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