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Morning Coffee – Thu, Jan 21 - Raptors Republic

Morning Coffee – Thu, Jan 21 - Raptors Republic
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Three — Sloppy: You cannot say the Raptors didn’t give their best effort. There was plenty of hustle and extra efforts by the Raptors from start to finish. But hustle only goes so far without smarts, and the Raptors shot themselves in the foot by repeatedly breaking down on defense. The Heat run an intricate system where all of their players can operate in the pick-and-roll which creates this cyclone effect where the defense always needs to be together and on a string. It became glaring in this game just how many loose ends there are in the Raptors’ schemes. The Heat didn’t have their superstar tonight, but they didn’t need it when the Raptors kept granting them open threes and easy driving lanes off a slew of breakdowns.

Raptors’ defensive backbone missing in loss to short-handed Heat – Sportsnet

Toronto got the full flavour of Miami basketball in the fourth quarter when the Raptors went scoreless for six minutes, ruining their own defensive effort as the Heat were able to pull away to a double-digit lead despite scoring just eight points themselves in the first half of the final period. A Pascal Siakam jumper with 5:17 left broke the seal as Toronto pulled within nine, but that seemed to spark the Heat too as they got three quick triples to push the lead back to 15 with 2:53 left, and Toronto couldn’t mount a threat from there.

“I think we generated some good shots for a lot of the game,” said Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who led Toronto with 24 points on 7-of-18 shooting. “I think obviously down the stretch there … we got stuck there for a while. So when it’s just pass, pass, pass, shot, three, there’s going to be ups and downs with that, and unfortunately all our misses came at the same time …. And obviously when you do that against the zone it’s kind of a snowball effect, they get more aggressive and as an offence you kind of get on your heels a little bit.”

The Raptors shot just 6-of-21 from the floor in the fourth quarter and 39.8 per cent for the game, dragged down by 16-of-49 shooting from deep – no formula to dismantle a zone. Add in the fact the Heat limited Toronto to just six fast break points and it’s bit of a wonder how Toronto scored as many points as they did.

Another area of concern is how Siakam will be feeling. The Raptors forward fell awkwardly after being hit on a dunk in the first half. He seemed to have tweaked his groin – an injury that cost him 11 games last season – but continued to play. He’s going to monitor it, however.

“Just a little scary fall,” said Siakam, who finished with 18 points and six rebounds. “I mean, my groin’s been bothering me for a little bit unfortunately, so that was definitely unfortunate, but yeah, I will see what we can do tomorrow, [and] see where we’re at.”

With the Heat on tap for a return date on Friday night before the Raptors travel to Indiana for a pair of games against Pacers on Sunday and Monday, one quirk of the strange schedule is the opportunity to immediately correct mistakes and see if those fixes can play out on the floor in real time, almost like a playoff series.

Aside from Nunn, Iguodala also had his best game of the season Wednesday night. The 17-year NBA veteran anchored a zone defense Miami used for most of the night against the Raptors. He made numerous deflections and steals — typical Iguodala things — but also hit three of his four attempts from beyond the arc, a huge boost. He finished with 13 points in 21 minutes.

Moe Harkless made some nice deflections and steals in the Heat’s win over the Pistons Monday, but he didn’t get off the bench tonight. In fact, Spoelstra turned to Max Strus, a two-way player, instead of Harkless in the rotation. For his part, Strus made just one of his three attempts from 3-point range.

The Heat’s other two-way player, Gabe Vincent, got the start Wednesday night. Vincent went just 1-for-8 from beyond the arc. Those bad shooting nights from Strus and Vincent should make us appreciate Duncan Robinson more. Robinson, who started with Miami on a two-way contract in the 2018-19 season, made all four of his 3s in the first quarter. And even though he didn’t make another field goal, his sheer gravity opened up numerous opportunities for the Heat.

KZ Okpala, who had started in Miami’s previous two games, also didn’t get off the bench.

Bam Adebayo didn’t score his first basket until midway through the second quarter and struggled through most of the game. But in the fourth quarter, he made a nice and-one shot down low and made a big mid-range shot at the close of the shot clock before his assists to Dragic and Iguodala for 3-pointers. It was a great finish for Adebayo, who ended the night with 14 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.

The Heat will face the Raptors again in their temporary home of Tampa, Florida Friday night.

Miami Heat: Re-emerging Kendrick Nunn leads them to victory in Toronto – All U Can Heat

Some might call this a fluke, but after this showing and his showing in Detroit on Monday, I think we can officially say that he’s back. He won on Monday night and he won again tonight.

With that though, it brings up an interesting question. Many of us have believed that if there was a guy that would be moved by the Miami Heat, then it would be Kendrick Nunn.

Is that still the case? I would say that those chances are around 50/50.

He has been this guy twice in a row now, so you would believe that he can continue to do this with somewhat regularity. Is that good enough to keep him over what he could help bring back from a team in a trade though?

His deal is a good one, from a team perspective. That could be a reason to keep him around or the best trade pitch in the league right now.

Who knows? Either way, Wednesday night was, again, his night.

In a Miami Heat victory, K.Nunn finished with 28 points, five assists, and eight rebounds on 4-6 shooting from deep. Mind you, he did all of this off the bench, though in 35 minutes.

As with every game between the Raptors and the Heat, there was an air of ugliness to the proceedings on Wednesday night. (And we’re not just talking about Miami’s pink-blue gradient uniform.) Both teams, even through various reformations over the years — or short-handed, as the case was for Miami without Jimmy Butler — these two squads find ways to bring out both the best and worst in each other. That’s led to some out-and-out slugfests over the years, and tonight’s contest in Tampa was no different.

But this is the new NBA, where much of the game is determined by who can take and make the most three-pointers across 48 minutes. It also means no lead is safe as teams can shoot themselves into and out of any game. For the Raptors, in particular, the three-ball has often been their salvation, getting them out of trouble when nothing else was working — particularly against a zone defense. The Heat clearly knew this to be the case too, so they pressured the Raptors via a zone — and just straight-up man-to-man effort — to push them out of what they wanted to do before laying Toronto out with an 111-102 loss.

In truth, the ugliness here seemed to refract back and forth for much of the game, as if both teams were taking turns looking into a funhouse mirror in the early going. The first quarter saw Toronto ease into the frame, with only Kyle Lowry playing with much urgency. (The broadcast noted he was just 22 points away from 10,000 as a Raptor, but Lowry was unable to bridge that gap on the night.) Toronto’s leader paced the team with seven quick points in that quarter while bringing energy as per usual. Lowry looked to attack advantages too, going at Gabe Vincent and Max Strus, relatively untested pro players. Lowry knows he’s got the edge there, and it was once again that spirit the Raptors needed to get going.

It takes good and sometimes great play to win a game against any opponent and there was just enough off in Toronto’s effort that a three-game winning streak is a thing of the past.

A scoring drought here, a couple of defensive lapses there, and the Raptors coughed up a 111-102 decision to the Miami Heat in Tampa, Fla., to open a two-game miniseries that concludes Friday.

“I think we were just a half-, a quarter-count behind a lot tonight,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought we weren’t moving as well as they were moving.

“They played hard and they were really active, and we weren’t quite active enough.”

So it goes. Some nights everything works, or enough works. But the margin of error against any team is so slim that a few momentary lapses can be deadly.

The Raptors played themselves into a double-digit deficit in the first half, dug themselves out of it, then went nearly five minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

When things are going well, a group consisting primarily of backups keeps the Raptors in games. Wednesday it went the other way.

In the heat of the moment it would be the Miami Heat that would seize it.

And by taking control of the fourth quarter, Miami would end Toronto’s three-game win streak in relatively easy fashion.

Stifling Heat prevails as Raptors’ three-game win streak ends

Too many missed shots during a horrid six-minute stretch in the final period would doom the Raptors, who never could solve the multiple defences Miami would use whether it was zone or tough man schemes where the visitors’ versatility allowed them to switch.

Make no mistake, this was a game the Raptors could have controlled had they summoned anything close to their best in the fateful fourth.

Miami, to its credit, did bring its A game and was well deserving of its 111-102 win.

The Heat played harder, smarter, had different players step up in key moments and was overall the better team, despite having several key pieces unavailable.

Whether it was in the area of three-point shooting, denying penetration, compete level, Miami was the superior side.

The teams will meet again in Tampa Friday night.

“It’s not very hard, but you have to be willing to be coached and willing to listen and willing to play with a lot of effort at all times,” Johnson said. “Coming from (playing college ball at) Arizona, I think it was pretty easy to play hard. More of (adapting to the NBA) was just understanding the concept of things and understanding what we want to get out of certain situations.”

Because of Johnson’s faith in his work ethic, he has been able to weather what have to be some disappointing times. No professional likes to be buried on a bench for nearly an entire season as Johnson was last year, but he worked hard and it paid off.

“He’s always kind of remained upbeat and positive. Hasn’t hung his head and hasn’t complained; he’s been very professional in his approach,” Nurse said. “So I guess it’s always good to see a guy that hangs in there getting a chance and then opportunity has presented itself and … right now he’s doing a solid job of making the most of his opportunity.”

Johnson was pencilled in for a spectator’s role again this season. Matt Thomas, Terence Davis and, to a lesser degree, DeAndre’ Bembry had shots at solidifying roles before Johnson made the most of his chance.

And he did it by working hard and forcing Nurse to keep running him out there during games.

“I have a lot of faith in the guys that we are going to figure it out together. We are in the gym everyday. We work at this stuff hard … It’s complicated, but it’s something you can learn. It takes reps. It takes time. I’ve been here over a year and a half and I just got it. Give guys some time, man.
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