The Miami Heat came up short against the Toronto Raptors, 107-103. Toronto seemed to have a good game plan for Miami early, while Miami battled back in the second half. Here’s my five takeaways from this game…
#1: Butler can score when he wants, but it’s his choice.
Jimmy Butler has been looked at as everything except a scorer this season, since his play-making abilities have been so elite. But today, he came out the gate with a scoring purpose. He showed that when this team isn’t knocking down their threes, he can step up. The problem is that sometimes he doesn’t choose to step up. He seems to get a little passive at times when he can easily attack the basket and score. Especially at the end of the game, Jimmy should be looking to score, instead of giving the ball up every possession. Jimmy will need to take more of a scoring load when the playoffs come around, especially late in games.
#2: Heat’s defense continues to show improvements.
Miami’s perimeter defense has continually been a problem this season. But, it was pretty clear they improved this in their first game back against Denver, when Denver shot 8/35 from deep. Today, it showed positive signs as well, even though Toronto scored the ball pretty efficiently. This may have a little something to do with the versatility in the lineup, now that Jae Crowder entered the starting lineup for Meyers Leonard. As Bam said, it’s a lot easier when you can switch everything. Miami also seemed to play a lot of help defense throughout. This forced Toronto into having 21 turnovers, which was one of the major keys to Miami’s second half run.
#3: Duncan Robinson gets targeted on offense.
Duncan Robinson has been Miami’s biggest offensive weapon all season. But, the Toronto Raptors seemed to read the scouting report, since they absolutely blanketed Duncan throughout this game. This did lead to more paint points for others, especially Jimmy Butler. This technique will definitely not be a one time thing. Teams will do this more and more, especially when they know your offense in a playoff series. I definitely don’t think Duncan should’ve just been taken out of their regular offense, which seems to be what happened in the second half. The Heat are going to need to figure out how to adjust their offense when this happens, since they’re losing a major scoring piece.
#4: Goran Dragic seems to be Heat’s biggest X-factor.
Goran Dragic entered the game in the first quarter and took control of the team. The play was slightly sloppy early, but he got the offense going. He also was Miami’s most important piece in their second half run. Goran Dragic will be a very key piece for this team since he has such a complete offensive package coming off of the bench. He seemed to struggle with the play-making side of his game today, but this is why Tyler Herro has taken some of the play-making responsibility off of the bench. Goran will also begin to be utilized more in games when Kendrick Nunn doesn’t have his shooting stroke going, like today. He will definitely be looked to down the stretch of games, since he’s one of the Heat’s most trusted players.
#5: Heat’s toughness is team’s best attribute.
The Toronto Raptors seemed to pull out of reach early in the third quarter, with Miami’s inability to shoot the ball. And well, this all changed midway through the third. This was lead by the bench unit with Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk. This lineup, surprisingly, began to adjust on defense, and eventually lead to Miami hitting some shots. This is because the guys on this roster are both physically and mentally tough. Coach Spo seemed to not only lean towards the hot hands down the stretch, but also the scrappy and physical players. This toughness is why the Heat are such an interesting team this year. If Miami hits their shots like usual, it’s hard not to categorize this team as one of the contenders.