(Toronto, On) The Toronto Raptors end their homestand on a three-game winning streak as they cruise past the Miami Heat 106-92.
It’s official, for the first time since December 9th, the Raptors have reached .500. Toronto is 38-38 on the season and 26-14 at Scotiabank Arena.
Both teams were short-handed in this matchup as the Heat were missing their leader in Jimmy Butler and the Raptors ruled out Gary Trent Jr., and Will Barton close to tipoff.
Through the first three minutes of the game, the Heat were on fire, taking an early 10-point lead against the Toronto. The Raptors countered, tying the game in quick fashion behind an inspired Scottie Barnes. Each team went bucket-for-bucket until Barnes broke the game open, leading the Raptors to a 7-0 run to end the first quarter. They led 24-23 after the first.
The Raptors continued to push the pace, as the team went six-for-six to start the frame. Raptors fans were delighted to see Precious Achiuwa return to form against his former team as he provided the spark the bench needed to go on a 24-9 run. Pascal Siakam found his rhythm, taking advantage of the Caleb Martin matchup, driving to the rim, and causing fouls. Jeff Dowtin Jr. and Chris Boucher also made an impact, draining a few jumpers and leading defensive schemes. However, Miami wasn’t going away as Tyler Herro lit up the Raptors, finishing with 14 points to end the half. Barnes had an efficient 18 points as Toronto led 53-47 at the half.
In the third quarter he Raptors would look to get more paint touches as they had the size advantage over the Heat. Clearly, the squad took that into account as they gathered 12 offensive rebounds and scored 11 second chance points. Toronto didn’t let up as they finished the frame with a 17-point lead after three quarters behind Siakam’s strong play.
The fourth quarter saw the reduce the deficit to single digits however the Raptors were too much to handle. Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby made a series of clutch buckets to secure the team’s 38th win of the season.
The Raptors had control for most of the game and were led by Siakam who had 26 points, nine rebounds, and five assists on 50% shooting. Barnes followed suit, as he had one of the best games of his career, scoring 22 points, seven rebounds, and a career high 12 assists. Anunoby is also playing his best stretch of basketball, dropping 22 points, five assists, and four threes. Achiuwa came back to normal form and hustled, scoring 12 points and nine rebounds. VanVleet was efficient late in the fourth, finishing with 12 points, six assists and two steals. The Raptors had continuity for most of the game as they didn’t look back after the second quarter.
The Heat were led by Herro who was scorching the Raptors on the perimeter, finishing with 33 points, six assists, and six three pointers on 62% shooting. Adebayo outplayed Jakob Poeltl in this matchup, earning a double-double with 21 points, and 12 rebounds. The rest of the roster struggled to put up double digits as Victor Oladipo and Martin each scored seven points. Despite the absence of Butler, Miami did their best to stick around but ultimately fell short in the fourth quarter.
As the Heat were first place last season, they have trickled down the standings this year due to injuries and cold streaks. Yet, they have pulled through their offensive woes and still remain seventh in the Eastern Conference. The race to secure a spot in the playoffs/play-in has never been tighter for both conferences as several teams are one game apart from each other. Their record doesn’t represent what they are capable of as they can make a deep playoff run when healthy. The losses of P.J. Tucker and Dewayne Dedmon have been evident; however, the core of the team remains, having a solid balance of veteran presence and young players.
With only six games remaining, the Raptors are tied with the Atlanta Hawks for the eight seed in the Eastern Conference. Although the season is winding down, the Raptors still have some crucial decisions to make regarding the rotation. During this four-game homestand, Dowtin Jr. has performed well at being a go-to guard off the bench, while leading the second unit with his energy and playmaking. Unfortunately, due to his two-way contract, Dowtin Jr. is ineligible for the play-in/playoffs as he can only participate in three more regular season games. Dowtin can join the Raptors regular rotation in the playoffs if management waives one player. Nearing full strength, we will see how Toronto utilizes its players as they are only 2.5 games back of the sixth seed.
The Raptors have three days to rest before they start their final five-game road trip. Toronto flies to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers this Friday March 30th at the Wells Fargo Center.
Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat boxscore click HERE.
Pascal Siakam – 26 PTS 9 REB 5 AST
Scottie Barnes – 22 PTS 7 REB 12 AST
OG Anunoby – 22 PTS 3 REB 5 AST
Tyler Herro – 33 PTS 6 AST 6 3PT
Bam Adebayo – 21 PTS 12 REB 4 AST
Victor Oladipo – 7 PTS 2 REB 2 AST