It wasn’t pretty, but the Toronto Raptors found a way to beat the Miami Heat 106-104. What did we learn from the win? Here are my three takeaways.
The Toronto Raptors just survived a barroom brawl. It’s rarely pretty when playing the Miami Heat. It’s never easy. However, despite missing All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, the Raptors were able to pull out a victory at Miami, defeating the Heat 106-104.
The game couldn’t have started any worse for Toronto. The Raptors were down from the opening tip as Hassan Whiteside and company dominated the first half of basketball.
However, amazingly, Toronto was able to overcome a lack of interior presence, slow start, and a high turnover rate. The Raptors were able to erase 17-point second half defense, thanks in large part to — wait for it — the bench.
The Raptors led the very little in this game and never led by more than four. Yet, they’re the ones who come out with the victory. What were the biggest standouts from this scrappy performance? Here are our three keys.
You rarely see zone in the NBA. It’s used on occasion by more unconventional coaches, but even when it’s used, it’s treated as a gimmick, teams rarely stay in zone for more than a couple of possessions.
If last night was your first time watching an NBA game: 1) You picked an odd game to start. 2) You would think zone was a regular occurrence.
Both teams ran zone for long stretches of Wednesday’s contest. Miami uses a 2-3, designed to pack the paint and funnel shots to top-tier shot blockers. Toronto plays a 3-2, designed to jump passing lanes and overwhelm perimeter opponents with length.
Both zones worked to some extent. However, it was the Raptors defense which was genuinely stifling. Miami was perplexed by the 3-2, and Nick Nurse deserves a ton of credit for the defensive stops which allowed a Raptor comeback. Toronto is playing a zone more and more often, and we’ve now gotten to the point where I would be shocked if it didn’t make at least some type of postseason performance.
It’s hard to believe, maybe even impossible, but the Toronto bench was critical to a Raptors win. Let me say that again; the Toronto Raptors bench played good basketball. Take a moment to let that sink in.
As a unit, they finished with a +16 point differential and all four players who received time played well. Delon Wright and Norman Powell were the biggest surprises, combining for 5-9 shooting, five assists, and only one turnover (With 16 team turnovers that one turnover is essentially a miracle).
I’m not sure that it’s coincidental C.J. Miles received a DNP-Coach’s Decision for the first time this season. He’s shot the ball extremely poorly, and when you’re a three-point specialist, that’s semi-important. We’ll see if this was just a day-off for a veteran player or the sign of more to come.
Finding a way to rebound
The Raptors lacked an interior presence all night. Without Jonas Valanciunas, Toronto doesn’t have a formidable bruiser to clean up garbage in the paint. Serge Ibaka has played power forward most of his career, and while Greg Monroe is tough, his 4-inch vertical jump prevents him from being a presence down low.
Despite missing JV and playing large stretches without a conventional center, the Raptors found a way to dominate the glass. Toronto outrebounded the Heat 43-35 and 10-6 on the offensive glass.
Rebounding has been one of the Raptors’ bugaboos all season, and while their performance against Miami doesn’t solve all of those issues, it’s certainly nice to see.
Make sure to check out our takeaways after each game here at RaptorsRapture.com.