Takeaways: Raptors overcome big obstacles to steal win in Miami

Danny Green hit the game-winning three-pointer with 22 seconds left to help the Toronto Raptors beat the Miami Heat 106-104. With the win, Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak on the road.

Snubbed out of a Christmas Day game, the Toronto Raptors returned from their holiday break for a Boxing Day clash with the red-hot Miami Heat.

This battle featured the team with the best record in the NBA and the club with the league’s longest winning streak.

Led by Kawhi Leonard‘s 30-point performance, the Raptors were able to snap the Heat’s five-game run even without Kyle Lowry in the lineup. Here are four takeaways from the gritty showdown:

Toronto Vice

The Heat may have been wearing their special “Miami Vice” jerseys, but it was the Raptors who stole a 106-104 victory Wednesday.

Trailing by as many as 17 points at one point, Toronto rode a massive second half to stun Miami. After Dwyane Wade and Leonard traded clutch baskets in the final minute of the game, Danny Green delivered the biggest shot of the night when he knocked down an open corner three with 22 seconds left.

Just like in Memphis on Nov. 27 against a Grizzlies team bearing some similarities to the Heat, Toronto looked dead in the water for much of the evening. Thanks to their whole team’s never-quit attitude, the Raptors were able to once again grind out a victory on the road against a physical opponent. While this wasn’t one of the prettiest wins of the season, it counts just the same and will surely help ease the disappointment of missing out on a Christmas Day showcase game.

Missing JV

When these teams met on Nov. 25, Jonas Valanciunas started at centre for the Raptors and had his way with Heat big man Hassan Whiteside. Valanciunas poured in 17 points and 10 rebounds on a very efficient 8-of-10 shooting while helping put Whiteside in foul trouble and limit him to just two points in 12 minutes.

With Valanciunas still sidelined by a thumb injury, it was Serge Ibaka drawing the start at the five spot in his first game back from knee soreness. The 29-year-old looked rusty in his first action since Dec. 16, shooting 2-of-10 from the floor for six points on the night.

Defensively, Ibaka and the rest of the Raptors bigs had issues trying to contain Whiteside. The seven-footer didn’t have any trouble getting easy baskets on the offensive end, registering 16 points on 12 shots. He was a monster protecting the paint as well and finished a game-high plus-22.

Momentum swung early in the third quarter when Whiteside was forced to the bench after catching an errant elbow. Toronto took advantage of his absence and outscored Miami 37-21 in the frame. By the time Whiteside checked back in with 10:38 to play in the fourth quarter, the Raptors had completely erased their deficit and held an 83-79 advantage.

Holiday Hangover

The Raptors sure looked like a team coming off a Christmas break Wednesday and struggled mightily to get their game in gear early on. Toronto laboured on both ends of the floor in the first half, allowing Miami to shoot 55 per cent through the first 24 minutes while converting on only 38 per cent of its own attempts.

Coming off a season-worst 25-point loss Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers in which they missed 30 three-pointers, the Raptors once again couldn’t get anything going from beyond the arc before halftime. Their hot-shooting second half — including nine made triples — will temporarily alleviate concerns about their three-point proficiency, but Nick Nurse’s team entered play ranked 25th in three-point percentage and eighth in attempts. The volume is there but the success rate isn’t.

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With enough of a sample size to work off, it’s fair to say Toronto could benefit from eventually adding a veteran shooter on the buyout market as the season progresses. How much of an impact can a move like that have on a club? Philadelphia ran off a 17-game win streak late last year thanks in large part to the additions of Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova.

One big reason why the Raptors are in need of another outside threat? See below…

See J?

C.J. Miles is essentially in the NBA to do one job: make three-pointers. Through 29 games this season, the 31-year-old is only firing at a 28 per cent clip from long distance, which makes it awfully tough to keep him on the court.

Miles didn’t see the floor in this game, with Norman Powell and OG Anunoby absorbing his minutes. Miles is having his worst statistical season in over a decade, averaging just five points per game on 31 per cent shooting overall. That cold shooting is certainly not what the Raptors are looking for out of their $25-million investment.


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