The Toronto Raptors took on the Miami Heat on Thursday night where the team’s defense was the star of the show, yet again. Though the Raptors started off slow, they were able to focus late in the 3rd quarter and came out on top with a 101-84 win over the Heat.
Despite the 11 blocks that the Heat put up, the Raptors were able to keep them at 39% shooting from the field and 60.9% from the line. When it came to turnovers, the Raptors struggled to hold on to the ball with 18 turn overs but they made up for it by being active on the boards, grabbing a total of 60 rebounds (11 offensive and 40 defensive). With their win on Thursday night, some honorable mentions must be made.
Since Lowry’s injury, DeMar DeRozan continues to carry this team and Thursday night was no different. DeMar had another 40+-point night where he shot 14/25 from the field along with 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal. Since being called out by PJ Tucker for his defensive effort, DeMar’s numbers show that he took the advice to heart. He continues to find ways to lead the team by example in more than just points scored.
Another honorable mention goes out to someone who had to take on the key role of back-up point guard – Delon Wright. You can tell that this guy loves to play against Miami as he finished the night playing 24 minutes with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot 4/7 and had 2 big steals to top off the night. Growing up as a Heat fan may account for the inspiration leading to his success. Despite the loss in the last meeting with the Heat, Wright put up similar numbers and showed Coach Casey and his team that he can step up when he is needed most.
Lastly, we cannot forget Norman Powell in this win against the Heat. He was able to contribute 14 points and was +24 showing that when he’s on the court, he'll be sure to get things done. Though there are times where I yell at my TV asking Norm to slow down, you can tell that he is starting to understand how to be aggressive yet have control. With the minutes from Ross’ departure up for grabs, #freenorm is in full effect.
There are only 10 games left until the first round of play offs and the Raptors have timed their momentum perfectly. With the additions of Ibaka and Tucker, it looks like this group is finally listening to Coach Casey’s philosophy. With their 4th appearance in the play offs coming soon, the Raptors have a good understanding of how different the style of basketball is played come April. It’s a “grind-it-out” type of play where stops can mean more to the game than shooting streaks. To this day, we have yet to see the Raptors in its entirety and their full potential is still an unknown. Fans can't help but wonder how much damage a healthy Raptors team can do and just the thought of it excites fans like a kid on Christmas Eve and where the play offs is their Christmas Day.
Sources: ESPN, The Score