10 things I saw from Raptors-Heat (11–3–2017)

  1. Inconsistent effort: The Raptors didn’t have it. We’ve seen many games like this over the course of a season. They’re on the road, they come out slow, they bleed points, and they exhaust themselves making the comeback, which only leads to yet another run for the opposition when they let up.
  2. Why is this happening? You could blame scheduling for this loss. The Raptors got into their hotels at 3 a.m. on the second night of a back-to-back against a rested side. But let’s not pretend the Raptors haven’t had letdown games at least a dozen times since January. The schedule sucks but good teams remain consistent with their energy.
  3. New reality: Scoring is a struggle. The Raptors developed a bad habit of not consistently working hard on defense, but they knew they could always score enough to get back into the game. Without Kyle Lowry there is no failsafe, and it’s most evident when the bench unit plays the second quarter. It bleeds points every game. DeMar DeRozan needs to be prime Kobe Bryant or it’s a guaranteed loss.
  4. Modern offense: The Raptors have never been a high-volume 3-point shooting team, but they have traditionally been a team that make a high percentage of the few looks they do create. That has completely fallen apart without Lowry. Not only do they miss Lowry’s ability to get his own look from deep, but he’s the team’s best creator to get his shooters looks. 4–25 followed by 2–15 isn’t going to cut it.
  5. Next man up is bullshit: Every team in the league is going to struggle without their best player. Look at the Warriors without Kevin Durant, or how the Cavs lose every game when LeBron James sits. Star players get the big bucks because what they do cannot be replaced. However, when stars go down, teams have to re-adjust. Let’s say you lose your job; you’re not dropping money on cabs and takeout you gotta hustle.
  6. But it comes back to system … because you need your offensive schemes to generate quality looks, you need your defense to generate turnovers, then you need to finish in transition. The Raptors don’t have the later two because they already don’t play hard on defense. So then it’s up to the system, and with all due respect to Dwane Casey, he’s just not a system guy. He’s a give the ball to his best player and let them cook type, which is fine when Lowry is in, but you’re on the ground when he’s out.
  7. Casey vs. Spo: Erik Spoelstra lost LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with three years so he’s not sweating no loss of Lowry. Boo-fucking-hoo. Spo is now making it work with a rag tag roster. They play hard on both ends of the floor and they play smart and disciplined. They’re the 2013–14 Raptors after Rudy Gay got traded.
  8. But again, it’s about system: The Heat and Raptors traded post ups in the second quarter, but how they got to the same result largely explained why Miami won.
  9. Miami got the ball across halfcourt with 20 on the shot clock off an inbound, immediately flowed into high double screen, attacked the paint before kicking it out for a quick side pick and roll that got James Johnson on a mismatch. He scores.
  10. Raptors respond by slowly getting the ball across, standing around, Norm Powell pounding the ball, swinging it harmlessly around the perimeter before Delon Wright feeds Jonas Valanciunas who makes a short contested jumper. Same result for both teams, but which offense is more sustainable?