The Miami Heat made their first seven shots against the Toronto Raptors Saturday night, jumping out to an 18-8 lead. Miami never looked back after that, building a 25-point lead and withstanding a late Raptors run to come away with a 104-89 victory.
Yes, the Heat continued the superior style of play that has worked since mid-January.
Miami continued their offensive dominance, knocking down 11 3-pointers and playing with crisp ball movement to slice up the Toronto defense. The Heat suffered a bit of a scare when Goran Dragic took an elbow to the eye less than a minute into the second half, leaving him with a ugly swollen eye.
[massive squint to check the score] pic.twitter.com/ictvXh7FC5— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) March 12, 2017
Miami reliance on Dragic showed a bit in the fourth quarter, when Toronto made their run. The Heat don’t have a lot of ball-handling outside of Dragic — it’s why James Johnson has emerged as such a vital player for the Heat — and a few full-court presses from Toronto flummoxed the Heat players.
But overall, Miami played an efficient game on both ends of the floor. Several Heat players made timely cuts to the basket when James Johnson had the ball, producing easy layups. And the Heat had a bit of a block party Saturday night, swatting away 10 shots. It’s partly why the Heat held Toronto to an 89-point outing.
Hassan Whiteside had four of the Heat’s 10 rejections, and he notched yet another double-double on the night. Whiteside finished with 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from the field and a perfect 4-for-4 performance from the foul line and 14 boards. And despite giving up some position to Jonas Valanciunas early in the game, Whiteside recovered and played much better later in the game. Whiteside also played good defense on pick-and-rolls, making several shots difficult for perimeter players. This performance represents how Whiteside can play an integral role for a good team — he doesn’t have to dominate offensively, but he can affect the game in multiple ways.
With Dragic out for virtually the entire second half, Dion Waiters led Miami with 20 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the field, including 4-of-6 from downtown. On the flip side, Waiters missed four free throws and turned the ball over five times. But Waiters showed his value in his ability to make contested jumpers and create his own shot. For a team that lost Dwyane Wade, Waiters has filled a void.
Tyler Johnson played 27 minutes off the bench, subbing in for Dragic after he sustained the blow to the eye. And Tyler Johnson didn’t just have the nice dunk in the third quarter that appears in the embedded tweet above. In one fourth-quarter sequence, Johnson showcased his toughness. After falling down hard on his shoulder and nursing it for a couple possessions, he received the ball at the 3-point line with the shot clock running down. Johnson made his way to the basket and hit a tough layup to protect the Heat’s lead. He finished with 16 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field.
Elsewhere, James Johnson contributed 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Wayne Ellington knocked down three 3s.
The Heat will fly to Indiana to face the Pacers tomorrow at 6 p.m.