Lowry and Jovic got things started for the Heat, but the Raptors kept the pace keeping things close. That changed quickly, with Jovic exploding for seven points going 3/3 from the field and propelling Miami out to an early lead (he had 11 points in the first quarter).
The Heat was impressive early, looking patient on offense and not forcing shots. The Raptors are a strong defensive team, so this was big early on. The Heat also looked solid on defense, but Scottie Barnes and Fred VanVleet still had moments where they chipped away at the lead. Gabe Vincent, Caleb Martin, and the reserves worked to keep Miami ahead as the first quarter came to a close but the Raps’ push kept things a little too close for comfort.
For much of the season, the Heat struggled to share the ball well, severely lacking the movement that made them great over the last few seasons - that wasn’t the case tonight (in the first half at least). This led to some great plays including a huge Max Strus slam. Strus was tremendously active, and it’s great to see how much his game has evolved. He is much more than a spot-up shooter.
With the Raps closing the gap, Jimmy and Kyle would come back into the game. Lowry’s shooting put Miami ahead by seven and Strus’ hot shooting extended the lead even more. As the half came to a close, Miami surged playing excellent defense and turning it into some beautiful offensive plays. Still, with the Raptors hanging around, the Heat would only take a six-point lead into halftime.
Jimmy got things started for the Heat to start the half after a slow start, and Miami showed improvements in their transition game. Still, the Heat appeared choppy in its halfcourt offense after such a strong showing in the first half. With the offense stagnant, the Raptors would close the distance and get within two and eventually tie things up on a 12-0 thanks to strong shooting from Fred VanVleet and others. Just like that, the momentum had shifted entirely. The Raps extended this run to 18-0 with OG Anunoby absolutely feasting on the Heat defense. It didn’t stop with Fred VanVleet quickly extending the run to 21-0 and leaving Miami reeling.
With Toronto eating, Miami unable to buy a bucket, and setting its season high in turnovers things weren’t looking good. Gabe Vincent stopped the bleeding and kept Miami within striking distance bringing them back within two on a 10-4 run with help from Dedmon. With the game still in reach, Jimmy would come back early in the fourth but every time it seemed the Heat could make up ground, the Raptors would respond in a big way. The Heat pulled back within two with just under five minutes remaining with Jimmy and Max doing work. But with the Raptors severely outrebounding Miami, and continuing their assault on the Heat defense Miami was unable to steal back the lead. Miami would go scoreless for the final minute despite opportunities, and let this one slip away.
If there’s such thing as moral victories, this might qualify given the number of injuries Miami is facing and the resilience they showed trying to claw back after sacrificing its initial lead.