Raptors knock off Heat 106-92, finally return to .500

Mar 29, 2023 - 2:24 AM
Raptors vs Heat
Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have finally climbed back to .500 after defeating the Miami Heat 106—92 on Tuesday night.

Toronto used a big third quarter to put the Heat back on their heels, and although Miami made a big push in the fourth, cutting what was once a 19-point lead all the way down to 10, the Raptors made enough plays down the stretch to seal the deal.

Despite the win, the Raptors didn’t leapfrog the Atlanta Hawks for 8th place in the Eastern Conference, as the Hawks beat the visiting Cleveland Cavaliers 120-118.

Still, it’s Toronto’s third straight win, and 6th in their last 8 games — and it might have been their best all-around effort in that stretch.

Scottie Barnes had a fantastic all-around night, notching 22 points, grabbing 7 boards, and dishing a career-high 12 assists. Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 26 points, and notched win board and five assists. O.G. Anunoby chopped in 22 of his own.

Tyler hero led all scorers with 33 points, and hit 6 of his 10 three-pointers. Bam Adebayo added 21 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did Raptors fans dirty, by opting not to start Kyle Lowry. Sure, Lowry’s been coming off the bench for a few weeks now for the Heat, but with Jimmy Butler out, and the game being in Toronto, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to let the GROAT soak in some adoration from the crowd before tip-off. Alas, Spo started Victor Oladipo, despite Oladipo being out of the rotation the past two weeks. Lowry didn’t even get an ovation when he finally checked in — as it was between quarters! Coach Spo, you robbed KLow and the fans of showing their mutual appreciation. You’re dead to me.

Anyway — Lowry finished with just six points on 1-for-6 shooting.

After a slow start, the Raptors climbed back to take a 7-point lead into halftime, and then turned on the gas in the third. They opened the period on a 10-5 spurt, with 8 of the 10 points coming in the paint — including impressive finishes from Fred VanVleet and Siakam at the rim, and with Barnes muscling up a baby hook after a nice little dump off from Siakam. The only two points that didn’t come in the paint came on a sweeeet stepback J from Siakam.

Spoelstra called timeout with 8:18 left in the quarter with his team trailing 63-52, but the Raptors kept coming. Anunoby drained a three, Siakam finished in transition, and Barnes again found O.G. under the hoop for a dunk, pushing the lead to 70-54.

The only Heat player who showed up in the frame was Herro, and boy, did he show up! He scored 14 of Miami’s first 18 points in the quarter, from all over the floor; he hit 6 of his first 7 shots.

But despite Herro’s heroics, the Raptors wouldn’t be denied in the quarter, and Precious Achiuwa dunked all over Cody Zeller to prove the point with a minute to go in the frame.

The Raptors headed to the fourth up 84-67, after outscoring the Heat 31-20 in the period; they hit 10 of their 11 non-three point attempts (their 3-for-10 mark from downtown was the only negative in the frame).

The Raptors opened the final quarter with Dowtin, Achiuwa and Boucher alongside Barnes and Siakam. Despite an early Achiuwa three, the Heat quickly closed the lead to 13 after a few rocky Raptors halfcourt possessions — one of which included a Chris Boucher dunk attempt that ended in a wedgie; the Heat won the ensuing jump ball.

The Raptors got a stop after said jump ball, though, and Jeff Dowtin found Anuonby in the corner for three. After about 90 seconds of typical Heat-Raptros ballgame — bricks galore — before another Achiuwa three-pointer made it 95-76 Raps.

The Heat didn’t go easy — they quickly ran off a 11-2 run to cut Toronto’s lead to 10 — but VanVleet nailed a corner three with 1:30 to go seal it.

Although the Raptors found offensive success in this one — they finished the game shooting 48% from the floor, despite a slow start — the defensive effort was the difference maker. Post-game, coach Nick Nurse said he was pleased with the effort, saying the Raptors “really flew at guys to challenge shots,” either getting a fingertip on them or making the Heat reload — “we did a good job making them miss,” he said. “It felt like we had a lot possessions where they were searching for a shot.”

Of Barnes’ big night, Nurse said the Raptors were looking to take advantage of their size over the smaller Miami roster, and Barnes was a big part of that. “He kept completing passes to where we had the size advantage, completing them to cutters, shooters,” Nurse said. “He had a really good, energetic game, kept his head moving.”

In particular, the Raptors liked getting Barnes the ball at the free throw line to create the advantage against the Heat zone. “They’d send guys to him, and he would have the 2-on-1 down low.”

Barnes said as much as well: “When it’s two on the ball, it’s four on three, that makes it easy,” he said, calling his playmaking tonight just “making simple reads.”

The Raptors got off to a cold start. Adebayo opened the scoring on a short J, and Kevin Love blocked a Jakob Poeltl on the Raps’ opening possession — before draining a three as the shot clock expired the other way.

After two Oladipo free throws, Poeltl had a mismatch on Herro but went up soft, and then it was Herro’s turn to drain a three the other way; after a VanVleet miss, two Adebayo FTs made it 12-2 Heat. And after a defensive miscue led to an Adebayo dunk and made the score 14-4, Nick Nurse was forced to call timeout in disgust.

Finally, after the timeout, the Raptors strung some stops, and a couple of buckets, together, first an Anunoby dunk off a steal, then a Barnes J in transition after a Gabe Vincent errant 3. Finally, after both teams fired up a slew of bricks, two Siakam free throws brought the Raptors within 2, 16-14, prompting a Heat timeout.

Coming back, the Heat settled in, going on a quick 7-2 run to push their lead to 23-16. But the Raptors came charging back, closing the frame with an 8-0 run, four of those coming on Barnes dunks — the last a runout dunk after a steal as the clock wound down, giving the Raptors a 24-23 lead after one.

That nice finish aside, it wasn’t particularly rosy for the Raptors; they couldn’t buy a bucket from downtown, finishing the quarter 0-for-9 from deep. Luckily, the Heat weren’t exactly (ahem) hot themselves; they shot just 38% from the floor in the frame.

The Raptors scored the first six points of the the second quarter, two paint buckets from Chris Boucher and a nifty layup from Jeff Dowtin Jr. Cody Zeller, of all people, led the Heat back, with two impressive jams, before Herro and Strus drained threes that brought the Heat within 1. (At least O.G. finally drained one for Toronto!)

Speaking of impressive jams, Achiuwa made his presence felt against his old team:

The Heat finally took back the lead, 40-39, after two Adebayo free throws, but the raptors grabbed it right back twhen Siakam ripped in his own miss, and Barnes threw down a monster jam after a Siakam three bounced out.

A couple transition buckets from Anunoby pushed the lead to 51-42 before Herro hit a three; the Raptors finished the half leading 53-46.

Despite the cold start, the Raptors got great contributions from up and down the roster in the first half. Every Raptor scored except Poeltl, and defensively, they got massive efforts from Achiuwa, Barnes and even Dowtin, who rejected a Herro floater. Oh, and you know VanVleet Anunoyb, and Poeltl showed up on that end too, with a combined six steals and blocks between them.

The Raptors now head out on the road for five straight, before coming back home for the season finale on April 9 against the Milwaukee Bucks.

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