The Miami Heat were enjoying their biggest lead of their first three games at 24 points during the third quarter against the visiting Toronto Raptors on Saturday night with a golden opportunity to put their struggles behind them and grab their first win of the season. But a scuffle featuring Caleb Martin and Raptors rookie Christian Koloko that spilled into the first row early would turn the game around in dramatic fashion before they finally held on for the 112-109 win against the Raptors, who will return to face Miami at the FTX Arena on Monday.
In a nice contrast, the home team came out swinging and played well from the outset — although the team remains far from looking as cohesive as they seemingly should be. They were sharp from deep, nailing their first five threes to start the game. And yet each time they hit a big shot the Raptors would respond with their own to stay within striking distance. Nevertheless a Jimmy Butler assist to Max Strus, who again played very well off the bench, gave the Heat an 11-point lead — at that point their biggest of the season — with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Though the Heat shot well in the first quarter, they only had a 38-33 lead after 12 minutes to show for it. A 19-4 run late in the second quarter after a pivotal play in which Raptors forward Scottie Barnes would leave the game with an injury would boost the lead at halftime to 71-50, even with Bam Adebayo again quiet on the offensive end and Jimmy Butler only showing flashes of aggressiveness.
Tensions were boiling over just seconds into the third quarter when Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, who struggled with foul trouble and a scoreless first half, was whistled for his fifth foul on a three-point attempt by Lowry. Tyler Herro and Pascal Siakam would get into it soon afterwards and a technical foul was later given to Lowry.
And then all hell broke loose.
The Raptors would then go on a monstrous 26-9 run to close the 20-point plus deficit to 92-83 score at the end of the third quarter, where they outscored the Heat 33-21. The lead was cut to eight points with six minutes left after a Gary Trent Jr. three-pointer, but Bam would respond with a big time floater in the paint to get the lead back to double-digits. Miami made just enough plays to hold on for the win, and players like Strus — who finished with 20 points in 37 minutes as a reserve — and Lowry — enjoying his best game of the season with 17 points and six assists — had to have big games to beat a hobbled Raptors team missing key players.
Lowry with a nice move to the rim for what's essentially the dagger of this game.— Naveen Ganglani (@naveenganglani) October 23, 2022
Given how off he looked against Chicago and the reception afterwards, his performances these last 2 games against Boston and Toronto have been encouraging.
Miami needs the best out of Kyle. pic.twitter.com/7mFOPFHDAC
Still, it was worrying to see the Heat look so unorganized and confused simply trying to hold on to the victory late in the game with head-scratching inbounds plays that gave the Raptors opportunities to create turnovers. It’s no surprise Toronto would make a run at some point in the game, but their second half lead was sizable and several unforced errors and turnovers could have turned this game around with no one to blame but themselves.
It became a one-possession game with seconds remaining before Butler hit one of two free throws to hold on for the win.
Butler closed with 24 points on 7-16 FGs and 9-11 FTs as well as 5 assists and 4 rebounds. Herro, who appeared to suffer a knee injury in the fourth quarter but soon returned to the game, had 14 points on 4-9 FG shooting to go along with 8 rebounds and 6 assists.
Miami would escape with the final 112-109 score for their first win, but it’ll be must-see TV when these same two teams face off again at the FTX Arena on Monday night.