Raptors 108 – Heat 94: turning it around


Don’t count out a shorthanded Raptors team, ever. They roared back in Miami to grab a gratifying win.

The Toronto Raptors played a desultory defensive game against the Miami Heat in the first half. The low-scoring Heat had a five-point lead at intermission, and the prospects for a Toronto victory were bleak. This was their second game in as many nights, and one which followed a bitter overtime defeat. Yet the resilient Raptors flipped a switch part way through Q3 and put together a 26-8 run to erase an 11-point deficit. Despite some anxious moments, they were never caught.

What was particularly impressive was the manner in which they closed out the Heat. A jumper by Raptors nemesis Dwyane Wade brought the Heat within a point with 6+ minutes left, but the Raptors rolled 18 points to the Heat’s 5 after that.

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The offensive star of the game was once again DeMar DeRozan. While we might grumble about his occasional ball-sticking habits, we can’t complain about the results. DD scored 30 points on only 17 shots, as both his dribble-drives and mid-range jumpers were money in the bank. He received support from sources both expected and unexpected; Kyle Lowry had 21, and James Johnson, favoured with the starting assignment over Terrence Ross, added 13.

Dec 18, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) waits for a rebound against Toronto Raptors forward James Johnson (3)and forward Terrence Ross (31) at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Duyos-USA TODAY Sports

TRoss didn’t seem to be upset with his demotion. His second straight 17-point outing has brought hope to those of us exasperated beyond measure by his inconsistency. In these last pair of games, he’s 10 of 18 from beyond the arc. He’s also blocked five shots in five games, which is more than he’s surrendered in turnovers or personal fouls. Dare I suggest he’s turning the corner?

Bismack Biyombo continues to rise to the occasion. He’s the Raptors’ only rim protector, and while one blocked shot doesn’t excite, he managed to change quite a few Heat attempts. Biz also grabbed 15 rebounds, for a total of 46 on the road trip.

James Johnson continues to anger his coach, but Dwane Casey didn’t let his ire blind his judgement. He pulled JJ after a misguided 3-point attempt off an inbounds play, but sent him back out to defend and post up his man on offense. The grateful, and hopefully chastened, Johnson was effective and then some. Five assists…nicely done.

Patrick Patterson continued his profound shooting slump by missing a pair of long balls, making him donut of nine lately.

The Heat aren’t noteworthy for their ballhawking ways, and the Raptors had a mere seven turnovers. Three of those were charged to DD, who dribbled his way into difficulty several times.

Luis Scola has been a Q1 surprise to opponents lately. Twelve of his 20 points came in the opener. Dwane Casey and his guards deserve some credit here, as they are obviously aware that teams are keying on Lowry and DD, and that gives Scola open looks.

Next: Bruno Caboclo improving in D-League

The mini road trip ends 1-2, which isn’t a disaster. The Raptors have more wins away from home than any other NBA team save the Golden State Warriors. Toronto is now back at the Air Canada Centre for a pair of winnable games against Sacramento and Dallas prior to Christmas.