Spoelstra on Wade’s 35-point performance vs. Raptors
Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 125-115 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Sunday at Scotiabank Arena.
1. What happened to the Heat’s starters? Miami’s starting five (Hassan Whiteside, James Johnson, Rodney McGruder, Wayne Ellington and Josh Richardson) combined for 44 points on 31.9 percent shooting, and each player finished with a negative plus-minus. The Heat’s bench outscored its starters 71-44.
As simple as it sounds, the starters’ struggles probably cost the Heat (7-12) the game because of a costly stretch at the start of the second half. Toronto outscored Miami 13-7 over the first 2:41 of the third quarter to push its lead to 15 before coach Erik Spoelstra quickly make his first substitution of the half.
“It just wasn’t a game they flowed,” Heat reserve guard Dwyane Wade said of the Heat’s starters. “But it happens. When those games happen, as a second unit, you got to come in and pick it up. But then the third quarter, we did need a little bit more and we didn’t get that. It happens. The second unit does the same thing, sometimes we’re not clicking.”
Of course, the Heat is also missing a few usual starters. Starting point guard Goran Dragic has missed the past four games with a right knee injury and starting shooting guard Dion Waiters has yet to play this season as he continues to recover from January ankle surgery.
It’s not an excuse, but an explanation behind the first unit’s struggles.
2. This was Wade’s best performance of the season, and it didn’t matter. Wade started strong with 16 first-half points on his way to a final stat line of 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting from the field and 4-of-7 shooting from three-point range to go with five rebounds and six assists.
It marked the most points Wade has scored in a game since returning to the Heat in a trade last February. It also marked the most points scored by a Heat bench player in a single game in franchise history.
“I was just trying to be aggressive,” Wade said. “I could tell we needed it a little bit from an offensive standpoint, especially with this team scoring the ball at a high rate early on and getting out in transition. So instead of letting the game go, I just decided to be a little aggressive. I had a couple matchups early, where I could be aggressive and the ball kept finding me.”
Even in Wade’s final NBA season, the 36-year-old continues to play as the first and best option off the Heat’s bench. He’s averaging 14.9 points on an efficient 46.3 percent shooting in 12 games this season.
But the most eye-opening statistic has to do with his three-point shooting, as he’s made 39.6 percent of his threes. If Wade keeps this pace up, this will be the best three-point shooting season of his career. His current career-best mark came in 2008-09 when he shot 31.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Wade has always been able to score points, but it looks like he’s added another wrinkle to his game even in his final NBA season.
3. The good news is the Heat found a way to limit its turnovers Sunday, but that didn’t matter either. Miami, which entered averaging the fourth-most turnovers in the league at 16.4 per game, committed a season-low seven turnovers in Toronto. And all of those mistakes came in the second half, as the Heat played a turnover-free first two quarters. It marked the first time in franchise history Miami has finished with zero turnovers in a single half.
But somehow the Raptors scored more points off turnovers than the Heat. Toronto turned Miami’s seven turnovers into 11 points, while the Heat scored seven off the Raptors’ 11 turnovers.
4. This was a good two-game trip for Bam Adebayo, and that also didn’t matter Sunday. He averaged 15 points and 17 rebounds and posted his first two double-doubles of the season during the Heat’s 1-1 trip that started with Friday’s win over the Bulls and ended with Sunday’s loss to the Raptors.
On Sunday, though, Adebayo was especially impressive. He finished with 16 points and a career-high 21 rebounds while playing a team-high 36 minutes in Toronto.
“He played very well the other night [in Chicago], as well,” Spoelstra said. “And he’s doing it on both ends, You just feel his energy. He asked to come out a couple of times tonight and we couldn’t afford to take him out. He was making too many things happen. That’s what you want to do as a player. But that force is something we can definitely build on.”
Maybe the most encouraging aspect from this two-game stretch has been Adebayo’s aggressiveness on the offensive end. He’s averaging just 5.1 shot attempts for the season, but took eight shots Friday and a season-high 10 shots Sunday.
5. The Raptors have emerged as the class of the Eastern Conference this season. Technically, based on regular-season records, the Raptors were also the best team in the East last year. But there’s a different feel around the organization this season, with two-time All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard on the roster. And there’s also a different feel because LeBron James is not playing in the Eastern Conference anymore. James’ Cavaliers had eliminated the Raptors in the playoffs in each of the past three seasons.
Toronto owns the league’s best record at 17-4, and has now won five straight.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence, you can tell,” Wade said of the Raptors. “It’s obviously led by Kawhi, unbelievable player on both ends of the floor. But they got a lot of guys around him that make them special, makes them a really good, deep team. Kyle Lowry, he does all the little things that everyone doesn’t always see. Then the role players are playing their roles to a tee. That’s why this team is so good. Definitely a tough team to beat at home with the confidence they play with, the speed they play with.”