Coup’s Takeaways: Bam Is Back, HEAT Hold Off Raptors
1. This was a weird game with a funky rhythm that managed to be simultaneously a defensive slog and incredibly compelling. So, like just about every HEAT-Raptors game of the past . . . decade? Toronto is one of the most unique teams the HEAT are going to face all season and their switchable length proved a challenge in both the passing lanes and in generating typical good looks (just 24 attempts from three). But with the way Toronto was pushing up on Miami’s shooters, Tyler Herro (23 points on 16 shots) was able to get to the rim early and often, later including a personal 9-0 run to bridge the final two quarters that gave the HEAT a lead they would not relinquish despite the best efforts of Fred VanVleet and Co.
In the end, it was a story of half-court offense. With a fuller complement of players, Miami has a diverse menu that has a solution to most problems. Toronto has the size, but has been reliant on transition offense all season and their half-court Offensive Rating of 73.1 proved their undoing as the HEAT did a little bit of everything on their way to a 104-99 victory.
2. Bam Adebayo made his return after missing the past 22 games following thumb surgery – which also led to Duncan Robinson being placed back in the starting lineup after Max Strus had been given a handful of starts – and at first the result were a little choppy. Toronto’s sea of length and athleticism had something to do with it, as well as Kyle Lowry being out of the lineup, but the timing was clearly off on a pair of early lobs. Then, midway through the second quarter, Adebayo caught the ball on the left wing for an isolation against Justin Champagnie, driving through contact for an and-one layup. It wasn’t just a welcome back moment for Adebayo, but a reminder of what Miami’s offense was in search of before the injury – the sort of mismatch hunting they were building that seemed so appropriate for postseason basketball.
A couple minutes after the drive, Adebayo took a rebound on a grab-and-go and went coast-to-coast for another layup. He only finished 4-of-14 for 14 points as both he and the team shook off a little rust, but in-the-moment there was no mistaking the author of the play as anyone but Adebayo.
3. The depth continues to bear fruit. Filling in for Kyle Lowry, Gabe Vincent added 15 points, punishing the Raptors for sagging off and playing him for the pass until they played up on him and he hit a pull-up three over Pascal Siakam. Vincent hadn’t been in the regular rotation lately with most of the guard rotation healthy, but in the final 90 seconds he was on the court with the starters, stopping a Raptors fast-break before Scottie Barnes could pass it ahead to Siakam for an easy lay-in. Because of that heady play and the ensuing half-court stop, Miami was able to go up six on the next possession when Jimmy Butler – who tied LeBron James in the HEAT record book with nine regular-season triple-doubles – hit P.J. Tucker for a corner three.
Max Strus (who played many of the late minutes) hit a huge corner three late, Caleb Martin slashed to the rim for clutch buckets and Dewayne Dedmon continued to be everything you want in a backup center. Each offered significant moments, bursts of energy that Toronto matched for a time until their shooting dried up. There are more playable players than Erik Spoelstra can play now, much less in a shortened postseason rotation, but as he continues to say, these are high-class problems to have.