10 things: Raptors' offense goes limp against shorthanded Heat

William Lou
·NBA reporter
·6 min read

Here are 10 takeaways from the Toronto Raptors’ 111-102 loss against the Miami Heat.

One — Weak: This game was as enjoyable as passing a kidney stone in a portable toilet. Even though the Heat were missing four rotation players, including infamous Raptors nemesis Jimmy Butler, they were still in the driver’s seat from start to finish. The Raptors played from behind all night, were consistently bewildered on the simplest of actions by the Heat, and ultimately finished with an excruciating and inevitable loss. It’s the type of performance that just screams that the Raptors, for one reason or another, just aren’t good enough as a group to win tough games against premium opponents.

Two — Disaster: The Raptors scored two points in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter. Miami shifted to a zone defense and the Raptors had no answers, even though they played extensive minutes against zone coverages in two games against Charlotte last week. Penetrating the three-point line was about as difficult as free soloing Mount Everest, and even simple passes into the middle of the zone was impossible. The Raptors just launched brick after brick, without a hint of a clue as to how to generate anything approaching decent offense, and the game was lost right there. The Raptors’ biggest problem this season is that they are prone to extended droughts on offense, but it was never worse than it was tonight.

Three — Sloppy: You cannot say the Raptors didn’t give their best effort. There was plenty of hustle and extra efforts by the Raptors from start to finish. But hustle only goes so far without smarts, and the Raptors shot themselves in the foot by repeatedly breaking down on defense. The Heat run an intricate system where all of their players can operate in the pick-and-roll which creates this cyclone effect where the defense always needs to be together and on a string. It became glaring in this game just how many loose ends there are in the Raptors’ schemes. The Heat didn’t have their superstar tonight, but they didn’t need it when the Raptors kept granting them open threes and easy driving lanes off a slew of breakdowns.

Four — Slow: It wasn’t talent that separated the two teams, it was smarts. The Heat are patient in their offense, but they are also quick in making the right pass. They screen on and off the ball until there’s a crack, then they immediately pound that weakness before getting a good shot. The Raptors make offense look impossible. It’s up to Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet to create by driving into defenders twice their size, or Pascal Siakam makes something up as he goes, or they fire quick threes before the defense is fully set. Even if the Raptors were to run offense like the Heat, they lack the decision-making and decisiveness that Miami plays with. Unless it’s coming from Lowry, every pass is just a bit too slow, a bit off, the screens are a tad late, and it gives the defense more chances to suffocate them even further.

Five — Silent: It’s not the fact that Siakam struggled tonight. Bam Adebayo had a similarly frustrating night on offense as both players shot below 50 percent against constant double teams. The difference between the two All-Stars is that Adebayo was involved even if he didn’t always shoot, and he was a constant deterrent on defense. Siakam floated in and out of the game offensively, struggled to generate much for himself or for others, but he was also leaky on defense with missed rotations and miscommunication. The burden of a star isn’t always to fill the statsheet, the burden of a star is to always find a way to contribute towards a win. Adebayo did that tonight, Siakam didn’t.

Six — Concern: Siakam landed awkwardly in the first quarter after getting undercut on a dunk. He appeared to strain his groin, which sidelined him for over a month last season, but Siakam shook it off and played the rest of the night. Nurse said post game that Siakam was fine, but it’s something to monitor moving forward. Any injury to this already shaky roster could send them over the edge.

Seven — Burst: Nick Nurse showed trust in sophomore Terence Davis even after he committed five fouls in 12 minutes in their win over Dallas, and Davis delivered offensively. Davis confidently stepped into his catch-and-shoot opportunities and also collected a steal on the perimeter leading to a fast-break dunk. Davis essentially took the spot of Norman Powell as the go-to scorer for the second unit, and he does have the skillset to pull it off. That being said, Davis is also similar to Powell in that he is prone to defensive errors such as letting his man back cut him for a layup, or reaching unnecessarily. Given the redundancy that the Raptors have in their bench, trading one of their guards for a big would bring some much-needed balance to this roster.

Eight — Silent: Chris Boucher finally had an off night after tearing it up for the past two weeks, and you can see the effect it had on the roster. Boucher primarily thrives in pick-and-roll, or in situations where he can use his athleticism like in transition or crashing the glass. Miami kept the Raptors in a half-court pace, and their zone completely erased the pick-and-roll as an option, so Boucher was mostly limited in his offense given that very little was there for him. The disappointing part of this game was that Boucher provided very little rim protection on the other end, as the Heat made a point to seek him out and to attack him. Miami’s bigs easily out-muscled Boucher, and even their guards slashed through him without much trouble.

Nine — Vain: OG Anunoby was the Raptors’ lone standout in this loss. His confidence continues to be sky-high in terms of his jumpshot, and he is even knocking down contested threes without much hesitation. But what was really impressive in Anunoby’s performance was his physicality. Miami dominated in that department across the board, with the lone exception being Anunoby who gave it right back to them. His spinning two-handed dunk in traffic was eye-opening, and perhaps the only shot the Raptors got at the rim for the entire fourth quarter. If Anunoby could just cut out the offensive fouls where he drives his shoulder into a smaller defender, he could have another two points per game.

Ten — Solid: Aron Baynes took a lot of flack to start his Raptors tenure, which comes with the territory of averaging less than four points as a starter. But this was a matchup that did suit Baynes, especially in the battle with Adebayo. Not many centers in the league can absorb the contact from Adebayo without yielding position, but that’s the type of strength and solidity that allowed Baynes to carve out a nine-year career. Offensively, it is still a struggle. Baynes also hit a corner three, which was his first of 2021, but the Raptors are still generally clueless as to how to have a functioning offense with him on the floor. Still, for how much criticism Baynes has drawn, this was a step in the right direction.

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