TAMPA, Fla. — If there’s a silver lining to the Toronto Raptors‘ sluggish 111-102 loss to Miami on Wednesday, it’s that they’ll get another crack at the Heat on Friday.
Fred VanVleet had 24 points and nine assists to top the Raptors (5-9), whose three-game winning streak came to an abrupt halt on a lacklustre night.
To limit travel and exposure in a season overshadowed by COVID-19, the NBA has scheduled two-game series, and so the Raptors host Miami again on Friday.
Nick Nurse is hoping for a far better performance.
“Hopefully we’re going to be pretty determined the next time the ball goes up,” the coach said. “You take one on the chin, you dig in . . . hopefully we’re ready to get out and move a little faster, push the ball a little harder, snap the passes and cover for each other a little bit better defensively. That’s part of when you see a team twice in a row, a big part of it.”
Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby had 18 points apiece. Terence Davis scored 16 points off the bench.
Kendrick Nunn scored 28 points to top the short-handed Heat (6-7). who were missing Tyler Herro (neck spasms), and Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley due to health and safety protocols around COVID-19.
“In this (injury) situation, either you put your tail between your legs or you rise to the occasion for your team,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Canadian Kelly Olynyk added 15 points for Miami.
The Raptors were coming off a 116-93 victory over the Dallas Mavericks, their best performance this season and a hopeful sign they’d turned a corner on their early troubles.
But on Wednesday, they shot 32.7 per cent from three-point range, and just 3-for-12 from the field in the fourth quarter.
“We’ll have to get some better looks instead of shooting threes all the time. When you don’t make shots against a zone it has a snowball effect. They get more aggressive and it makes it harder,” VanVleet said.
The Heat, which led by as many as 11 in the first half, took an 88-83 advantage into the fourth quarter. Chris Boucher’s cutting layup sliced the difference to three points early in the quarter, but Miami replied with an 8-0 run capped by a fadeaway bucket from Bam Adebayo that had the Heat back up by 11 with 6:58 to play.
Siakam’s jumper with 5:17 to play ended an almost six-minute stretch without a Raptors basket. VanVleet’s three less than a minute later slashed the difference to nine points. But the Raptors couldn’t maintain any momentum, and back-to-back three-pointers by Goran Dragic had Miami back up by 15 points.
Davis scored from distance with 1:27 to play to make it a 10-point game, but the Raptors never threatened over the dying seconds.
Toronto’s sluggish finish has been a worrisome trend this season for a team that was once one of the league’s best teams down the stretch.
Asked whether he likes the two-game series concept, VanVleet said he’s undecided.
“I’m not sure it’s good, bad or indifferent. I guess there’s something to it, to try and play a team you just loss to right away, there might be a little extra motivation there,” he said. “But you just go into each game every night trying to get a win and we didn’t do that tonight, so we’ll try to bounce back in the next one.”
Kyle Lowry scored Toronto’s first seven points, but an Andre Iguodala three-pointer and dunk punctuated an 18-6 Heat run late in the quarter, and Miami led 29-23 to start the second.
The Raptors picked up the pace in the second, and Anunoby’s pair of threes were part of a 9-0 Raptors run that sliced Miami’s lead to two points. Toronto went into the halftime break up 58-56.