The Toronto Raptors finally managed to put together their most complete game of the series and steal a win from the Miami Heat in game 3. Normally after a victory I’m excited, however this sort of win brings me a confident calmness. The Raptors proved in the regular season that they were a good team, however in these playoffs they made that fact extremely hard to believe. Tonight’s matchup featured two teams having to deal with some major adversity as both team’s had their starting centre’s go down in this game. Hassan Whiteside tweaked his right knee in the 2nd quarter and was made unavailable for action. While Jonas Valanciunas – the most productive player in a Raptors’ jersey would go down with a sprained ankle early in the 3rd quarter. JV played just 22 minutes; he finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds before leaving the game.
Despite all that the Raptors managed to win in true Toronto Raptors fashion by building a 13-point lead to watch it whither away just to hold on to a 95-91 win – which in reality was a one possession game. After finishing the half with just 9 points Dwyane Wade went off on the Raptors in JV’s absence finishing with 38 points and 8 rebounds. The thing about this D-Wade onslaught was that he was killing Toronto with his jumper; connecting on back-to-back, step-back 3-pointers. Only to follow them up with a couple more step-back mid-range jumpers. The Raptors were helpless in that regard. It’s a good thing one of the All-stars finally decided to show up.
In JV’s absence Kyle Lowry returned to form delivering a performance for the ages. He put the team on his back and executed – even when Dwyane Wade was draped all over him. Lowry finished with 33 points on 11/19 (5/8 3PT) shooting. With Lowry hopefully breaking out his slump, the fortunes for the Raptors in this series dramatically improve – however they may have to deal with the absence of JV moving forward which could be a huge blow.
Cage’s Report Card:
The Raptors looked like a different team out there against the Heat. This game had a very different pace as the Raptors would only finish with 16 assists, however they did shoot 47% from the field. The ball wasn’t moving as much because the Raptors had established themselves inside for what seemed like the first time ever. Valanciunas was beasting before Whiteside went down, so him going down was only going to make things easier – this wasn’t the case.
With the Raptors inside edge gone, Kyle Lowry returned with a bang. There was no other game-plan the Raptors could have executed successfully without JV. Lowry was the last resort and he delivered. Lowry finished the half with just 4 points, but exploded in the third for 12 of his 33. Lowry straight out-dueled Wade’s 38 points as the two All-stars exchanged buckets for most of the second half.
The Raptors defence was strong in the first half. The Heat were struggling and the Raptors were containing Wade and Joe Johnson. However when a hall of famer decides to flip the switch – there’s not a whole lot you can do. The Miami Heat stormed back from a 13-point deficit no because the Raptors defence was lacking, but because Dwyane Wade is a different animal. The shots he made to get Miami back in the game were virtually unguardable. Instead of abusing the Raptors in the paint, Wade went on a jump-shooting onslaught to overtake the Raptors and get both his team and the home-crowd back in the game. The Raptors did what they could, but should they have lost – it would’ve been due to a boneheaded mistake by either Terrence Ross or terrible shot selection by DeMar DeRozan.
The Raptors lost the battle on the glass tonight 38-35. Valanciunas had a game high 12 rebounds while Wade had a team high 8 rebounds for the Heat. The Raptors effort on the glass without their leading rebounder was important in securing crucial possessions late in the game. Without JV all 5 players were needed to rebound which in turn likened the pace for Miami. Their defensive rebounding dictated their half-court game and the Raptors reacted well to the playoff intensity.
Game ball: Kyle Lowry
#LowryTime. I’m not sure how much more I can praise this guy’s effort tonight. So with that being said – just enjoy it for what it’s worth.