Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 121-110 overtime loss to the Miami Heat.
One — Deserved: There was a chance for the Raptors to steal this one in regulation on a bang-bang play at the basket, but it wouldn’t have been an accurate reflection of how this game went. Miami were in firm control from start to finish, and they out-executed the Raptors on both ends. Not even a surplus of 15 free throw attempts was enough to overcome the fact that the Heat just straight-up beat the Raptors. As it were, this is a reality check and a much-needed learning experience.
Two — Disappearance: Pascal Siakam needs to take a look in the mirror after this game. After coming up short on a handful of early jumpers, Siakam simply wilted from the spotlight. He never dared challenge Bam Adebayo on the drive, and he became a passenger down the stretch while the Raptors’ guards threw up unanswered prayers from deep that went nowhere. On one key sequence in the fourth, Siakam matched up agains Kelly Olynyk, but instead of demanding the ball and going to work as any other primary scorer would, Siakam just passively stood in the corner. For the sake of the team, Siakam needs to understand that he can never withdraw from a game as the leading scorer, because there’s nobody else to pick up the slack. This cannot become a pattern for Siakam if the Raptors have any tangible playoff aspirations.
Three — Rusty: Kyle Lowry was just a mess in his return from a fractured thumb. Sure, he made plays such as taking a charge in overtime and diving into contact for free throws, but this was a miserable game from the floor general. Lowry shot 2-of-18 from the field, including 0-of-11 from deep, and was completely out of sorts. He gambled, forced the issue, and quite frankly, he was lucky to even hit double digits in scoring thanks to a few bail-out calls from the officials. It’s understandable that Lowry would need time to find his rhythm, and playing Miami is hardly a walk in the park, so write this one off as an aberration. Having said that, Lowry’s bricks, coupled with Siakam’s shrinkage, ensured the loss.
Four — Confident: Norman Powell was the only Raptor who didn’t shy from the moment. Powell nailed two threes from opposite corners to put the Raptors ahead by one in regulation, before that was erased by a Jimmy Butler free throw. Powell was the odd one out with Lowry returning to the lineup, but he still found a way to be involved off the bench, which is a promising sign. The ideal scenario would be if Powell can maintain his momentum as a sixth man while the original starting five regains rhythm.
Five — Rolling: It’s no surprise that the offense ran much better with Fred VanVleet as compared to Lowry. VanVleet took a step back with the starters, but he resumed his role as a lead guard with the bench and those units consistently mounted comebacks against their counterparts. VanVleet didn’t have a great game in terms of attacking the basket, but that can be said about every single player on the team as Miami did an amazing job of collapsing at the rim. But otherwise, it was encouraging that VanVleet was still able to be effective in Lowry’s return.
Six — Unfortunate: OG Anunoby drew the short end of the stick, as he found himself on the bench for the entirety of the fourth quarter and overtime. Part of that is a reflection of Powell’s contributions as a scorer, but it’s also another symptom of Lowry’s return, which meant that someone would have to sit. The tough part is that it was through no fault of Anunoby, who executed the game plan on both ends. No, he didn’t bottle Butler, but that speaks more to the scheme than anything else. Hopefully this isn’t a trend, as Anunoby is in the midst of a breakout season and has been Toronto’s best defender to date.
Seven — Outfoxed: You can tell Erik Spoelstra is a great coach because the Heat picked the Raptors apart from start to finish. Spoelstra smartly anticipated that the Raptors would trap Butler, and his team was prepared to capitalize. Butler made quick and timely passes to open shooters and cutters for his 12 assists on the night, while bigs like Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk and even Meyers Leonard made great plays in space. It’s rare to see a team play with more cohesion than the Raptors, so tip your cap to Spoelstra.
Eight — Boss: Nurse eventually called off the trap, but that’s when Butler responded with eight points in the first 55 seconds of overtime. Butler has always killed the Raptors in previous seasons, and tonight was no different as he finished with a triple-double. The contrast between Butler’s thirst for the limelight, and Siakam hiding in the shadows, was the overarching story of the game.
Nine — Perspective: Although it was a rough night for the Raptors, it’s important to not overreact. Ibaka and Lowry’s return was always going to cause a disturbance, as the rest of the team had to fit into a nice groove without them. There needs to be trust in the talent and in the coaching staff to strike a new equilibrium. Having said that, it’s a tough ask to figure things out on the fly against top competition in Miami and Houston, but the remainders managed to do just that in the double header against Los Angeles.
Ten — Bench notes: Chris Boucher didn’t see the floor at all, and he only played in garbage time against the Jazz ... Rondae Hollis-Jefferson only saw 17 minutes off the bench and his fit with Ibaka is questionable ... Terence Davis went scoreless, but he was decent on defense and made a couple of smart passes.
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