The Toronto Raptors found themselves in a deep hole late in a game once more, this time against the formidable Miami Heat. Just as they did against Brooklyn on Tuesday night, the Raps grabbed some shovels and started to dig out. Miami, comfortably ahead by 14 points with 2 minutes left in the third quarter, went cold in the fourth, while the Raps chipped away. When Rudy Gay put back a missed free throw, the Raps were suddenly down just 2, with 4+ minutes to play. We fans didn’t know it, but the Raps offense had just scored its last field goal. The final points the home team mustered were 2 free throws from Tyler Hansbrough, the only ones the Raps made of 10 attempts in Q4. Three different Raps (Hansbrough, Gay, DeMar DeRozan) went to the line in Q4, and missed both shots. Gay and DeRozan were 5 of 14 for the game. How can that be? I thought I had witnessed all the possible ways to squander a victory, but I guess I was wrong.
The dismal finish to this game obscures some excellent defense by the Raps in the second half. On their way to 57 points before intermission, Miami had sliced through the porous Raps D for one easy basket after another, particularly when Jonas Valanciunas was on the bench. With no paint presence to worry about, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James (even Norris Cole, fergawdsakes) were slashing to the bucket for layups. Terrence Ross played more minutes than starters JV and Amir Johnson, in my view because he was energetically up in the grill of Wade and others. Sadly, TR missed the 5 shots he tried, all 3-balls. The second unit guys were helpful (particularly Hansbrough) on D, but non-starters provided 3 Raps field goals. There are many eyesore-grade stats from this game, but that one might be the worst.
King James appeared uninterested in shooting early on, and was content to act as a facilitator on offense, picking and passing with ease. He was credited with 3 assists, but if “hockey assists” (i.e., the pass before the pass that leads to the field goal) were counted, King James would be way up there. LeBron always gets his points, though. His average for the season: 26.2. Last night, he scored 27. Wade was also a load for the Raps, pouring in 22 without attempting a 3-ball. His fadeaway jump shot is undefensible. Chris Bosh, the tallest yet least of the Big 3, was a non-factor. He fouled out while scoring a mere 4 points.
The Raptors face the Denver Nuggets on Sunday, the final game of this disappointing home stand. Dwane Casey needs to find some additional scoring in a hurry. Gay, DD and Kyle Lowry had 61 of the Raps’ 83 points, while averaging over 42 minutes of playing time each. If any of those three turns an ankle, the unreliable Raps offense will implode.
Putbacks: The Heat were clowning around during their warmup, culminating in an impromptu slam-dunk competition which drew oohs and ahs from the stands. If I were the Raps, I would have been offended at being taken so lightly….Don’t be surprised if Hansbrough gets the start on Sunday over Amir, who’s been of little use….the Heat were whistled for 30 fouls, which seemed to bother them unduly – perhaps they are accustomed to getting the close calls from the refs?
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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