In game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals match up, the Toronto Raptors managed to even the series in what was another highly competitive game against an experienced Miami Heat squad, 96-92. The second game of this series was forced into another overtime. However, it was the Dinos that pulled away to even the series 1-1.
Miami was always going to be a challenge for Toronto and since the first 2 games have been decided in overtime, the fact of the matter is still relevant. It wasn’t by any means pretty, considering Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are still shooting horrible percentages 7/22 and 9/24, respectively. With that being said, the Raptors were able to get 20 points from DeRozan and 18 points from Lowry. But it was DeMarre Carroll that led the team in scoring with 21. Jonas Valanciunas, once again, went in beast-mode down the stretch as he tallied a double-double in the form of 15 points and 12 boards. The Heat leaned on Goran Dragic‘s 20 points and got 17 each from Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng. The boys from the Six are not going to win this match up easily. To get past Miami, the energy level needs to exceed their opponent. Let’s take a look at Cage’s report card.
As mentioned before, this was such an ugly win. Toronto shot 42 per cent from the field, 22 per cent from beyond the arc and an abysmal 54 per cent from the charity stripe. Yes, the Raptors scored more points than Miami. But, that doesn’t dismiss their offensive shortcomings. DeMarre Carroll got his 21 points efficiently and to no one’s surprise, so did JV. The team also conjured up 13 offensive boards and assisted on a little bit over a third of their 39 field goals as they racked up 14 helpers. That’s the silver lining. The shooting percentages need to be a lot better. 42 per cent isn’t bad but it is definitely not acceptable. 22 per cent from downtown is worse than some non-playoff teams and if the Heat employed the Hack-A-Shaq/Howard/Jordan strategy, Toronto would not have fared well.
The sole reason that the defence isn’t lower is because of the turnovers. While Miami shot 49 per cent from the field and 36 per cent from 3, the Raptors were able to force 21 turnovers and swipe the ball 15 times. The anticipation of the passing lanes was great and it’s what kept the Raptors in the game, ultimately positioning them to win. If there’s one take away from the defence in this game, it’s that Miami did a careless job at passing the ball. Toronto only had 1 block, compared to the Heat’s 7. To make matters worse, Hassan Whiteside had 3 blocks on his own. The defence, like the offence, left a lot to be desired.
The Dinos lost the battle of the boards, 45-39. While that’s not an encouraging sign, the Raps are currently the best rebounding playoff team, averaging 13.3 a game. The team stayed true to form, pulling down 13 offensive boards compared to Miami’s 9. Erik Spoelstra acknowledged the Raptors as the best offensive rebounding team. While it doesn’t improve the team, it’s evidence the Spoelstra and the rest the Miami Heat, are aware of the Raptors’ ability to crash the glass on both sides of the floor. JV led the effort with 12 boards, followed by DeRozan’s 8 and Carroll’s 5. Whiteside spear-headed led Miami with 13 boards, Luol Deng and Dwyane Wade each had 6 and Joe Johnson had 5.
Game Ball: DeMarre Carroll
DeMarre Carroll has been invaluable thus far in the playoffs. It was tonight’s game that he really stepped up for Toronto. He had an overall stat line of 21 points, 5 boards, 4 steals and an assist. He also scored efficiently, going 7/13 and 4/6 from beyond the arc. His defense on Joe Johnson, late in the game, was crucial to the Raptors playoff run. The next opportunity the team has to play will be Saturday May 7 in Miami at 5PM. So far, the Toronto Raptors have been playing sloppy basketball. If they manage to make smart plays and continue their energy on defence, the offence will become much more efficient.