Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors started off so much better than last night’s 30-point drubbing to the Boston Celtics. With Jimmy Butler and P.J. Tucker both back, the Miami Heat offense hummed and Miami jumped out to an early lead. The Heat led 32-22 after the first quarter and even held a 15-point lead early in the third quarter.
The rest of the game? Not so good.
The Raptors went on a run to get back in the game in the third, deploying a zone defense that flummoxed the Heat. Back-to-back 3s from Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa early in the the fourth gave the Raptors their first lead of the night. And then Gary Trent Jr. made two 3s and then made two free throws to put Toronto up 100-93 with 4:35 left.
A Tyler Herro 3 with 3:58 left pulled Miami to within 100-98, but the Heat didn’t have enough to take the lead back. Jimmy Butler, who played well but struggled in the clutch in Saturday night’s triple-overtime loss to the Raptors, played off-the-ball this fourth quarter. While Bam Adebayo drove to the basket for some nice scores, it was too little, too late.
The Heat lost their third straight game, and those buoyant feelings of being top in the Eastern Conference are long gone. Miami is now the third seed in the East.
This loss is frustrating — the Heat had an early lead and let go of the rope. The Heat shot just 8-of-30 from downtown and particularly struggled to score in the second half. Miami’s starting backcourt of Gabe Vincent and Duncan Robinson each shot 1-for-6 from the field. (Tuesday night marks three straight off nights for Robinson, who had appeared to have shaken off his early-season slump.) Even though Herro made some big shots in the fourth, he looked bad through the first three quarters.
If Miami conceded Monday night’s game by holding out Butler and Tucker, losing tonight’s game in Toronto hurts even more.
Adebayo was Miami’s best player Tuesday night, as he finished shooting 13-of-17 from the field to go for 32 points, 11 rebounds and a key blocked shot in the fourth quarter. Miami needs to see this Adebayo for the rest of the season. The one blemish is that his jumper still needs to come along.
Butler finished two rebounds shy of a triple-double and made all 10 of his free throws, but he shot just 3-of-10 from the field. (Three of those 10 attempts were 3-pointers, all of which missed.) Though he’s struggled in the clutch this season, Miami needs Butler to show up in the fourth quarter of close games.
The other starter who returned Tuesday, Tucker, played well. He made nice cuts to the basket to score 12 points and shoot 5-of-11 from the field.
After completing their four-games-in-five-nights set, the Heat have just one day off before visiting the San Antonio Spurs Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. This game is rescheduled from the Dec. 29 postponement, when Miami did not have enough players.