Artistry it wasn’t. Typical Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors it was. Concerning it became.
Unlike Saturday night’s Heat victory in the first of these consecutive matchups, the scrapping this time came between the lines, with the Heat falling 98-90 Monday night to the Raptors to drop to 1-3 heading into this week’s three-game western swing.
On a night when shots weren’t always falling, particularly 3-pointers, closing time again became decision time, this time with the decisive play going in the Raptors’ favor.
So from a season-opening four-game homestand, just one win, and that after nearly blowing a 24-point lead before holding off the Raptors by three on Saturday night.
“I don’t think anybody would have anticipated, starting off with this home stretch, that we’d be 1-3,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s sometimes the nature of this league. It’s tough. You can’t just mail in victories. You have to earn ‘em, and sometimes things don’t go exactly how you want them to go. And these are opportunities to come together and develop some collective resolve.”
Pummeled by the career-high 22 rebounds from former Heat forward Precious Achiuwa, the Heat came up short despite 26 points from Jimmy Butler, 22 points and a career-best 15 rebounds from Tyler Herro, and 14 points and 10 rebounds from Bam Adebayo. But there also was a 1-of-8, two-assist night from Heat point guard Kyle Lowry.
The Raptors, who closed the game on a 25-9 run, got 24 points from Fred VanVleet, 23 from Pascal Siakam and 18 from Gary Trent Jr., with Achiuwa adding 10 points.
“Coming into the season,” Herro said, “I didn’t think it would start like this.”
Five Degrees of Heat from Monday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat trailed 48-43 at halftime, but then utilized a 15-2 third-quarter surge to go into the fourth up 76-71.
It appeared the Raptors had a 9-0 run early in the fourth quarter to move ahead, but the Heat won a block/charge challenge to negate an O.G. Anunoby basket, instead leaving him with his fifth foul.
But back Toronto came, going up 86-83 with 5:05 to play on an Anunoby 3-pointer, later moving ahead 91-85 with 2:40 left on an Anunoby dunk.
From there, a Herro 3-pointer with 1:52 to play got the Heat within 91-88.
But a missed Herro tying 3-point attempt that was followed by a Siakam jumper for a 93-88 Toronto lead with 50.4 seconds to play.
A driving Butler layup with 47 seconds left followed to make it a 3-point game, but Trent followed on the other end with a 3-pointer for a 96-90 Raptors lead with 22.6 seconds to play.
“They were putting the ball on the floor, collapsing our defense. We just weren’t great on those reads,” Spoelstra said.
The Raptors’ 27-13 edge on fastbreak scoring didn’t help, either.
“It was devastating what they were able to do in transition,” Spoelstra said.
2. Strus moves in: Rather than go with a player from the power rotation, Spoestra opted to start Max Strus in place of suspended Caleb Martin, who had opened the first three at power forward.
Spoelstra did not take issue with the NBA suspending Martin for shoving Raptors center Christian Koloko into the crowd Saturday, nor with Nikola Jovic being suspended for leaving the bench.
“I was expecting it with both of ‘em and we don’t have any issue with how the league viewed it,” Spoelstra said. “It’s a teaching moment, not only for Nikola, but for everybody else.”
Of Jovic leaving the bench area, Spoelstra said, “You’re not expecting that, certainly not in front of our bench. It was unfortunate, but we take the penalties and we move on.”
3. Undersized: Not only did the Heat go small Monday, with Strus in place of Martin, but they continue to struggle in their non-Adebayo minutes, with backup center Dewayne Dedmon uneven to start the season.
At one point in the second period, the Raptors were outbounding the Heat 27-14, closing with a 52-46 edge, a season-high total for Toronto.
In his 10 minutes Monday, Dedmon missed his lone shot, went scoreless and was limited to one rebound.
By contrast, Achiuwa was dominant on the boards against his former team, producing the 14th 20-rebound game in Raptors history, their fourth-highest single-game total.
“We missed a lot of shots,” Adebayo said of Achiuwa’s rebounding total. “We shot 34 [percent] from the field. There’s a lot of rebound out there.”
4. Butler for 3: Butler stood 2 of 2 on 3-pointers at the end of the first quarter, the rest of the Heat 0 for 7.
Butler, who had gone 1 of 2 on 3-pointers in the season’s first three games, seven times had multiple 3-pointers during the 2021-22 regular season, with five more such games following in the playoffs.
Other than Butler’s 2 for 2, the rest of the Heat were 2 of 18 on 3-pointers in the first half.
The Heat closed 8 of 33 from beyond the arc.
“We missed some shots, yes, but I thought we moved the ball decently well,” Butler said. “I feel like for a stretch there we got stagnant.”
In a results-based league, Butler acknowledged the results haven’t been there.
“We got to start winning,” he said.
5. Herro ball: While the outside shot wasn’t there, the effort was from Herro, who already had a double-double with his 10th rebound early in the third quarter.
Herro’s 13th point was the 3,000th of his career. Like his teammates, Herro struggled from beyond the arc, at 2 of 9.
Of where he feels the team stands, Herro said, “Probably frustrated, not disappointed. Maybe both.”