The Raptors hung tough against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat for a good portion of Tuesday’s game. Eventually, LeBron James took over, but the home side still had a chance, until a couple of shots didn’t fall and Miami was able to basically double its lead.
It was a bit of an odd night. Jonas Valanciunas dominated from the get-go, having possibly his best quarter of the season in the first. Miami’s small lineup (no Chris Bosh, no Greg Oden, not much Joel Anthony) couldn’t stop the Lithuanian big man and Amir Johnson was a tough cover as well. Taking Valanciunas out for a break early to regain his breath made sense. He played some more in the third quarter, but with Miami pulling away, he didn’t get back in until about four minutes remained in the game. By then, it was too late. Predictably, the Raptors clawed closer, but one wonders if the team would have had a better shot if Valanciunas had played the final seven minutes or so. Just as strange was no Johnson down the stretch at all. He’s the team’s most effective defender by miles and pretty capable on offence as well. The Raptors are better with him on the floor. Coach Dwane Casey said the team had to stay with only one big because Miami went small (with LeBron at power forward he wanted Rudy Gay or Landry Fields to match up with him) but it’s not clear why, over the years, through various coaches, the Raptors have been hesitant to press an advantage. Why is it this franchise always seems to bend and adapt to what the competition is doing instead of playing off of an advantage? Amir fouls a lot, so that’s likely why he didn’t get the chance to match up with LeBron, but it might have been worth a shot, given how effective the offence was with two bigs.
- Terrence Ross provided some offence from the bench. He even passed the ball at least once. He’ll need to keep passing a bit to keep defenders honest.
- LeBron on joining an elite group of players with at least 10 points in 500 straight games: “It’s very humbling. I just go out and play every night and those are the results of it. When I see a stat like that, I’m like, wow, because I know the history, know the guys who paved the way for myself and my teammates and to be in such a great class like that, it’s an amazing feeling.”
- Casey on why he went small: “They were small also. Ray Allen was in, LeBron was at the four. We had a stretch of turnovers like five in a row, six in a row there and that broke our back.”
“I don’t think the small lineup (lost the game), I thought Jonas and Amir and Tyler, all three guys gave us (good play). They weren’t going big also.”
“No he’s not (hurt, speaking about Amir Johnson). I thought Tyler was doing a good job, Jonas was doing a good job and just rotating those guys in. They stayed with LeBron at the four and that’s why we stayed with Landry at the four.”
“They have one of the best power, point guard forwards in LeBron. You talk about why Amir’s not in there and those guys, you have to have somebody to stay out front to try to stay in front of them. Had Landry or Rudy in front of him. But he sees the whole floor and you have one of the best shooters on the planet in Ray Allen on the wing. We knew that coming in, we knew what we had to do.”
“Our guys battled. We put ourselves in position to beat the top team in the league and now the next step for our team is to bust through that, that’s our next step. Are we there yet, we’re not there yet. I see us getting better, see us improving again we’ve got 78 more games to go. It’s a tough month, we’ve got to fight through and continue to get better. Tonight I saw improvement out of Jonas, I saw improvement out of Landry Fields. We’re getting there.”
- Rudy Gay continues to struggle immensely with his shooting. Frustration looks like it is settling in a bit. On the plus side, he continues to do fine work on the boards. He didn’t contain James as well as he did a year ago.