AP / J Pat Carter
The Miami Heat were missing Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen and Greg Oden coming into tonight’s game against the Toronto Raptors. Even on the second night of a back-to-back, this game seemed like a prime opportunity for the Raptors to steal a W in the midst of a tough three game stretch. Alas, the Raptors fell to the Heat 93-83. LeBron James dominated the third seed in the east, dropping 32 points seven rebounds and eight assists. Kyle Lowry left the game in the third quarter due to a sore left knee and didn’t return. If his absence is prolonged, this game will hold much more significance than a regular season loss.
It was disturbing how limited the Raptors became on defense in the second half. Jonas Valanciunas was given some nice looks in the paint in the first half. One play that stood out was DeMar DeRozan zipping in a left handed pass to the big man for a dunk. Val scored 10 points in the first half, but only managed four in the second half. DeRozan also had 10 in the first half with some nice drives to the basket. He was held to six in the second half. The Heat showed why they’re such a huge matchup problem for the Raptors in that decisive half. They used their athleticism to cut off the Raptors from the rim, limiting the team to mostly contested jump shots. Patrick Patterson was a non-factor in his return. The open Steve Novak threes of the first half were mostly non-existent in the second. DeRozan averages around eight free throws per game yet only reached the charity stripe once. The Raptors did shoot 50% from the field, and they did force some jumpers early in the shot clock. But the second half was the Heat at their best defensively. The Raptors just didn’t have a response.
The Raptors defense was done in by two things: James completely controlling the game, and their inability to stop fouling the Heat. The Raptors committed 25 fouls. The Heat committed 14. The Heat shot 22 free throws, while the Raptors shot 10. As for James, the Raptors are just not equipped to cover him (though very few teams are.) Terrence Ross is arguably the Raptors best perimeter defender, but James is 55 pounds stronger than the sophomore. DeRozan will never be confused with Thabo Sefolosha, and if you think Landry Fields or John Salmons can cover him, it’s time to take off those rose colored glasses. James was able to turn the corner and consistently exploit the Raptors helping big men for profit. Even with all of this, the Raptors still held the Heat to 93 points and 28% shooting from three point land. There were stretches where the Raptors defense was stifling, allowing the team to come within three points with less than six minutes left. The defense kept this team in the game for the most part. However there is one important stat to keep in mind: The Raptors allowed their opponent to shoot 50% or better for the fourth time in five games.
It’s tough trying to defeat a smaller team like the Heat when you’re being beaten in the rebounding category. The Heat outrebounded the Raptors 36-30. Chris Anderson made some key rebounds to give the Heat extra possessions and had three offensive boards. Valanciunas was able to collect ten rebounds en route to his 21st double-double of the season.
Game Ball: LeBron James
He was simply dominant. When he was double-teamed, he found open teammates for easy buckets. He was able to get out on the fast break, and he was a monster in the pick-n-roll. His playmaking more than made up for his six turnovers. This game goes to James.