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Heat defeat Raptors 120-103 with a little help from our friend, Mike Miller

The Miami Heat handed the hobbled Toronto Raptors their 7th straight loss with a 120-103 victory on Saturday night. Bosh was still ailing and Wade was unable to play with a migraine but the team did not skip a beat with James expanding his game into the post and Miller waking up from hibernation. In a season of 82 games, against a lottery team, it's a game one can easily forget. But if you were a witness, you won't. An ode to Mike Miller's beginnings in Miami:

Welcome to Miller Time

The Miami Heat era started with the signing of the superstar trio in James, Wade and Bosh. Loyal Heat member and captain Udonis Haslem joined them soon after to form the Miami core and the search for the ultimate complementary piece to the group would begin. Riley and Co. didn’t have to look for too long or too far. Mike Miller – the deadly sniper from long range who had been courted by Riley during free agency and is a former roommate of Haslem from their Gator days - bought into Riley’s vision and signed a 5-year contract to be part of the historical era to come. Mike would be the air that opens up the floor, the insurance for heedless drives, the Ying to the Wade-James Yang. It would all have to wait. Mike injured his thumb on his shooting hand and underwent surgery which saw him miss much of the season until a comeback in late December. The road to his return would have many bumps, his comeback gradual in limited opportunities for a Heat team on an extended winning streak. Mike was shooting .179% (5-28) from beyond the arc in his first 10 games and looked out of sync - timid in his abilities, playing reserved and unsure of how to blend with his teammates. On bittersweet terms, it took injuries for Bosh and Wade to create the ticking bomb that landed on the Toronto Raptors. The available minutes, touches, practice time, opponent not known for defense and the freedom to fire were the perfect setup for Mike to step up in his teammates' absence. In the famous words of Eric Reid: Kaboom. After attempting 12 shots from beyond the arc the whole season, Mike had seemingly given the green light to fire at will and he took it. Running. Mike shot .600% from the field in an assortment of shots, drives and bombs from long range, including a 6-for-11 three-point barrage in the Heat’s .615% 3PT shooting night. His shot was smooth, in perfect form, gleaming with confidence. It came in all forms, from all sides. Toronto had been ambushed by the dormant three-point leviathan and there wasn’t much they could or did to deny him. Oh the horror, the massacre. Amidst the compounding fire were the attempts to take charges, solid passes and 10 rebounds for the first double-double of his career as a Heat. The assassin had silently constructed the missing piece to the Heat’s Voltron. It’s just what everyone needed. Miller needed a breakout game to cement him as a prominent piece on this team and the Heat needed his talents to complete the weapon assembly occurring in South Beach. A victory over the Raptors puts the Heat closer to the top stop in their conference, but most important, puts the team closer to the envisioned army for a dynasty. The catalyst has arrived. And he’s here to stay. Game Notes:
  • The starting lineup consisted of a season-first Chalmers, Miller, Jones, James and Ilgauskas. The choice for James at the 4 is obvious from Bosh's absence and Miller in Wade's. Chalmers getting the nod was not explained but is likely due to need for a driving force into the lane other than James when shooters Miller and Jones are on the floor.
  • LeBron James led all scorers with 38 points on .483% shooting. His team high 11 rebounds netted him his 17th double-double of the season.
  • James indulged in the post often, going 6-of-7 in post opportunities according to ESPN research. His development and desire to play in the post is a welcome addition to his already stacked offensive arsenal. Even when ambushed, his vision allows him to pass out of double teams with uncanny precision. Against the Raptors it is a definite fighting tool but don’t be surprised if Spolestra strays from post adventures against bigger elite PFs who can coax a foul from James.
  • Sorry if you didn’t get the invitation, but there was a party and it wasn’t on Ocean Drive this time; it was all downtown. Aside from Mike’s 6-of-11 performance from beyond the arc, Jones went 2-of-2, Chalmers 3-of-3, James 1-of-3 and House 4-of-7 to complete the 61% shooting display of triple rainbows.