The Toronto Raptors and especially VanVleet came up big against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat yesterday.
Coming into this game, the Toronto Raptors failed to get a win against the Miami Heat in the regular season. The Heat was just a team the Raptors couldn’t figure out. Adebayo was too mobile, Duncan Robinson was given too many open looks, and it also doesn’t help when both Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet combined for an atrocious 21.21 percent field goal rate (14/66…) in both losses.
This time around, superstar Head Coach Nick Nurse, came in with a new gameplan and it showed right off the tip-off.
OG Anunoby guarding Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo has been a problem for the Toronto Raptors, that’s why Nurse finally decided to put OG Anunoby on Adebayo instead of Marc Gasol. Gasol did a fine job of limiting Adebayo around the rim in the first encounter — Gasol was injured in the second game and Ibaka took his place but he didn’t do well — but Bam killed Gasol pretty much anywhere else. Adebayo’s speed and playmaking around the perimeter were too much to handle for Gasol, resulting in too many open lanes when rolling or driving.
However, yesterday’s game didn’t come as easy for Adebayo, who was limited to 1/4 shooting when guarded by Anunoby and 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists scoreline. Nurse and Anunoby limited the Heat’s pick and roll action by not doubling the ball handler and leaving Anunoby to stick to the roller instead of having to call an outside player for inside help, which leaves a dangerous player like Duncan Robinson open at the three-point line.
The Raptors did not let Robinson get comfortable
Speaking of Duncan Robinson, did he even play yesterday? Robinson who shoots almost 45 % from three and averages 13 points per game was limited to only 3 points against the Raptors. Nurse and his troops made sure to not give him an easy time whatsoever — especially after their first encounter in the season where Robinson essentially won them the game making six threes.
Here, whether it was VanVleet, Siakam, Lowry, or Anunoby; they did not let Robinson get any easy looks. Shutting down their best three-point shooter leads to other players taking three which the Raptors would be completely fine with — after all, they give up the most threes out of anyone on defense.
VanVleet doing it on both ends of the floor
As mentioned earlier, Toronto’s guard just couldn’t get going in the first two matchups. But although Lowry still struggled, VanVleet was able to get into his groove. Constantly getting to the line and making deep three after another. VanVleet was 7/12 from three and went 13/13 at the free-throw line.
His 36 points may have been his most impressive stat, but his defense was just as good. The league leader in deflections had 6 deflections in this game and his most important one coming late in the game to secure them the win. The Raptors were up by two with 12 seconds left when VanVleet deflected Jimmy Butler’s pass thus leading to a Toronto possession right after.
Nurse made all the adjustments necessary to win this game and VanVleet played out of his mind as he did against the Bucks in the conference finals last year. Overall a very good game for the Toronto Raptors who are going to be facing the Orlando Magic next.