Hassan Whiteside made a surprise start after getting 13 stitches after injuring his shooting hand in their last game and gave a big early boost with his hustle. Combined with strong play from Goran Dragic and the Heat converting on six of their first eight overall field goal attempts, the home team quickly raced out with the lead and soon increased it to double digits.
Any chance that the Heat would coast to an easy victory was quickly dashed once DeMar DeRozan got going and he single-handedly kept Toronto close in the first quarter, hitting five straight shots from the field and scoring 14 consecutive points for his team. Miami kept control of the game however, with Dragic scoring eight points in the first quarter and the Heat’s defense forcing the Raptors into five early turnovers.
Miami held a 10-point lead after a 12-2 run near the end the first quarter but Toronto closed the gap with a 9-2 run in the second. The Heat would claw back and hold a 15-point lead but the Raptors would quickly strike back and closed to within 6 while DeRozan sat on the bench as the rest of the team picked up their defense and started to consistently attack the rim with positive results.
Without Dion Waiters, the Heat really needed someone else to step up with their offense but the team would go ice cold, going at least six minutes without a field goal midway through the second quarter. A James Johnson field goal with three minutes left finally broke the spell but Toronto would soon cut the deficit to a single point after Cory Joseph hit a 3 with less than a minute left in the first half. DeRozan’s two free throws tied it at 45-45 but a superb block by Josh Richardson led to an impressive play by James Johnson to feed it to a driving Dragic for a layup as the buzzer ended.
Unfortunately that ultimately did little to slow the Raptors’ momentum, who were firing on all cylinders during the second half and out-hustled the Heat on rebounds (for a 51-36 advantage), and on 50/50 plays. Dragic would never again be the offensive threat he was in the first quarter and the Heat missed 13 straight 3-point attempts after they went 4-6 to start the game.
Toronto would take their first lead of the game at 65-64 late in the third and they ended the quarter on a 14-4 run for a 7-point lead. Miami had no answer for DeRozan, just like they didn’t against Damian Lillard in their recent loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, but the rest of the team also had their moments in this impressive road win — particularly Delon Wright and Norman Powell who each put their stamp on the game. Wright’s versatility and defensive tenacity, coupled with some crucial scores in the second half, was one of the best players on the floor while Powell shredded Miami’s defense more than once for easy buckets.
DeRozan finished with 40 points, the most for any Raptor all-time against the Heat, on 14-25 shooting and 12-13 from the free throw line to go along with six rebounds and three assists.
The loss hurts the Heat’s playoff chances but more bad news could come their way after Whiteside sprained his ankle late in the game, though it remains to be seen how serious the injury was.
Miami had little chance of extending their streak of 16 home games scoring 100+ points with minimal ball movement in the fourth quarter and must now hit the road for three games with a 35-37 record and another lost opportunity to reach .500. They manage to hold on to the eighth and final playoff spot, with the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons just one game behind.