It wasn't the ideal start to the new year for the Toronto Raptors, who opened 2020 with an 84-76 loss to the Miami Heat.
Neither team truly got going offensively, but the Heat made two late spurts that were too much for the Raptors to overcome as they were outscored 21-16 in the final frame.
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With that in mind, here are some thoughts from the game…
1. This was ugly, but it had a playoff feel
That's got to count for something, right?
It was a defensive battle from the beginning, with the teams combining to score just 38 points in the first quarter. The opening frame set the tone for the rest of the game as both the Raptors and Heat never truly got going on the offensive end, falling well shy of their season scoring averages.
In this day, it's not often that do you see a team score 84 points in a win. In fact, it's the second-lowest total from a team in a win this season. The Raptors scoring output? The second-lowest of any team this season.
The offensive struggles were a product of defensive strategies and adjustments that you would expect to see in a playoff series… more on that soon.
Not only will Miami and Toronto be around once the postseason begins in April, but they are also teams that will be tough to face in a seven-game series because of their discipline, toughness and ability to make games ugly.
This game is the perfect example of why.
2. Miami executed the 2-3 to perfection
Erik Spoelstra went a bit outside of the box, employing a 2-3 zone defence for nearly the entirety of the game.
Toronto's rhythm was thrown off ever-so-slightly, as it couldn't get going from the perimeter. Plenty of looks that were seemingly good didn't fall and it was largely a result of the Heat defence.
Ultimately, it meant…
3. The Raptors had their worst shooting game of the season
28-for-89 (31.5%) from the field. 6-for-42 (14.3%) from beyond the arc. 76 points.
All season lows.
This Raptors team largely depends on the 3-ball for the offence to be at its best and as this game showed, it can be a pretty ugly sight when they can't find that rhythm. Of the players that played over 20 minutes, only Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (4-for-8) shot above 50.0%.
4. Toronto really scored just 76 points
As it was the second-lowest output from any team this season, it was naturally a season-low for the Raptors.
In fact, it was the team's lowest scoring output since 2015.
Where did that occur, you ask?
Last time the Raptors were held to 76 or less?- Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) January 3, 2020
Nov. 8, 2015.
An anomaly, indeed.
5. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet each had rough games
Without Siakam, Powell and Gasol, the offence goes as far as its backcourt will take it.
Pretty much, the entire game was a struggle for both Lowry and VanVleet.
Lowry (15) and VanVleet (7) scored 22 points on a combined 7-for-32 (21.9%) shooting from the field, including 3-for-23 (13.0%) from beyond the arc. Of course, they found other ways to impact the game, as VanVleet finished with six assists and Lowry dished out eight assists while making plenty of game-winning plays on defence.
Without the scoring, though, it just wasn't enough.
These two are more than capable of bouncing back from shooting games like these and will likely do so sooner rather than later.
6. The Heat remain a dominant force at home
16 wins. One loss.
With this win, the Miami Heat are now 16-1 at AmericanAirlines Arena, with their lone home loss coming to the league's best road team in the Los Angeles Lakers. It's the league's best home record.
Miami is now 25-9 overall this season and is just a half-game back of Boston for the East's No. 2 seed.
In the postseason, home court advantage will be huge for an elite home team like the Heat have proven to be.
7. Miami taking the season series could prove to be crucial
This was the second of three meetings between the Heat and Raptors this season and the Heat have the season series after taking the first two.
Miami (24-9) is now 2.5 games ahead of Toronto (23-12) in the standings but with the tiebreaker on its side, essentially hold a 3.5 game lead in the standings.
In a crowded East, tiebreakers will be very important.
8. What's next?
It's an important month for the Raptors, who play nine of their next 14 on the road.
MORE: Raptors can separate themselves in January
Up next for Toronto is a trip to Brooklyn to take on the Nets, who have lost four in a row.
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