Spoelstra: “Toronto played a great basketball game”
Five takeaways from the Miami Heat’s 125-104 loss to the Toronto Raptors (48-19) on Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena:
1. There’s a big gap between the Heat (31-35) and the top teams in the Eastern Conference. If the standings aren’t enough to convince you, Sunday’s blowout loss to the Raptors should have done it.
Even without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard (load management), the Raptors — which are in second place in the East — controlled the game from start to finish. Toronto took a 5-4 lead with 10:27 remaining in the first quarter and never trailed again.
The Raptors are now 14-5 this season when Leonard is unavailable to play.
“They played like they were the No. 2 seed,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “There were obviously some things that if we could go back, we would do a little bit differently. But you could tell they prepared for us. They prepared for our zone and did things teams don’t normally do in our zone, and they made shots out of it.”
Eight Toronto players finished with double-digit points, led by All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who finished with a game-high 24 points to go with seven rebounds and 10 assists. Forward Pascal Siakam also made a big impact with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“This is one of the top teams in the East for a reason, even without Kawhi,” Justise Winslow said. “They’re super solid defensively. Kyle does a great job of leading that team and getting exactly what he wants out of every possession from his guys. Hats off to them. They beat us fair and square tonight.”
For the season, the Heat owns a 2-10 record against the East’s top five teams (1-1 vs. Bucks, 0-3 vs. Raptors, 0-2 vs. 76ers, 0-3 vs. Pacers and 1-1 vs. Celtics). And if Miami makes the playoffs, it will face one of them in a first-round series.
2. Opponents have made a lot of three-pointers against the Heat lately. But no team has ever hit more against the Heat than the Raptors did.
Toronto finished 21 of 40 from three-point range. It tied a Raptors franchise record for most threes made in a game, and it also marked the most the Heat has allowed in a game in franchise history.
The previous record against Miami was 19, which has been done three times in the franchise’s 31 seasons and twice over the past two weeks (a Feb. 28 loss to the Rockets and Friday’s win over the Cavaliers).
Lowry led the charge with six made threes. Danny Green shot 5 of 8 from deep to continue his role as Heat killer, as he’s now 36 of 65 from three (55.4 percent) at AmericanAirlines Arena during his career.
“This game would have required a much higher level of commitment and effort, and that doesn’t guarantee anything,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “The shooters have earned that respect. Last time we were here, Danny Green hit the one that was the dagger. If you treat them as if everybody was [Stephen] Curry, Klay Thompson or [Kevin] Durant, you could be there two or three steps beyond the three-point line to make them put the ball on the floor.”
Goran Dragic said the Heat was “just a step slow” on defense.
Some of the struggles came in transition, with the Heat unable to find the Raptors’ shooters. Toronto finished with 21 fast-break points on seven made threes.
“I would say close to 10 of them were in transition or in semi-transition,” Spoelstra said of Toronto’s threes. “That’s why this fast-break number is deceptive because they had some semi-fast-breaks, where they’re moving the ball and we weren’t matched up for those back-breaking threes that would force a timeout or just disintegrate our momentum.”
Miami has allowed the seventh-most made threes per game in the league this season at 11.8, but that number has jumped to a league-worst 16.5 over the past six games.
3. The Heat’s two-man attack at center continues to impress, with Bam Adebayo starting and Hassan Whiteside playing off the bench.
Adebayo finished with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in 27 minutes. He’s averaging 12.1 points on 64 percent shooting, 7.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists over this seven-game stretch as a starter.
Whiteside contributed eight points, seven rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes. He’s averaging 10.3 points, 10 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over the past four games since taking on a bench role.
The two have yet to play together during this recent stretch, though, with Spoelstra opting to pair Adebayo and Whiteside with a frontcourt player who can stretch the floor with outside shooting like Kelly Olynyk. The Heat has been outscored by six points in the 14 minutes Adebayo and Whiteside have played together this season.
4. Well, Olynyk’s streak of efficient shooting is over.
Olynyk finished Sunday’s loss with one point on 0-of-8 shooting from the field and 0-of-4 shooting from three-point range in 24 minutes. He entered the contest averaging 19.7 points on 60.2 percent shooting from the field and 60.6 percent shooting on threes during his previous seven games.
It marks the worst shooting night of Olynyk’s career, surpassing an 0-of-7 performance in a loss to the Pacers last season on Nov. 16, 2018.
5. The Heat is still holding on to the Eastern Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
With Orlando losing to Memphis on Sunday night, Miami stands one game ahead of No. 9 Orlando and No. 10 Charlotte.
This sets up a critical matchup between the Heat and Pistons on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami is 3.5 games behind sixth-place Detroit.
“You’ve got to be looking now. It’s that time of the year now,” Wade said when asked if he pays attention to the standings. “I’ll be checking it out. I’m sure other guys have. You just want to see from game to game, if we lost ground or we’re gaining ground and where you’re at. You want to have your eyes on it. I think it’s important.”