If any of you were holding out and not a believer yet in to Toronto Raptors shocking turnaround they might have provided the most evidence of it ironically in a loss to the Miami Heat. The Raptors had already played Miami twice at home with their old roster and surprising to no one were not even close to being competitive with Miami. As snow fell outside for most folks in Ontario down in South Beach the Raptors were making some noise against the two time NBA Champions.
Miami came out guns a blazing looking to make an example of the upstart Raptors. Maybe a sign of the Raptors gaining some respect around the league Miami would play their full roster complete with Dwyane Wade. He was playing for the first time this season in the second half of a back to back for Miami. He and James hooked up for an alley-oop to get Miami off to there hot start.
But by the end of the first quarter the Raptors had fought back and were trading blows with the defending champions. A couple of things were clear by the end of the first quarter. The Raptors were not just in this game to show up. The Raptors based on their play of late believed they had a chance to shock the world and beat Miami. DeMar DeRozan started this game trading shots with the best player in the game today. The other thing that was clear in not DeRozan or Ross had much of a hope in guarding Lebron. That said the Raptors managed to fight the first round to a 29-29 draw.
The Raptors would continue to battle and narrowly lose the second quarter despite poking their nose out in front a few times. It was up for debate on who would lead this game going into the half. In the end it would be Miami with a slim one point advantage.
What you would likely expect is the Heat to storm out of the halftime break and put the plucky Raptors away. Instead the exact opposite happened and it was the Raptors building an eight point advantage about 4 minutes into the second half. The Raptors in the end would hold on for a four point lead on the strength of a 33 point third quarter.
I found myself as this game went on being far less concerned with the outcome and if the Raptors could hang on. I was just flat out entertained by this contest and it was likely the most entertaining game I can recall since dating back to the Vince Carter Era.
Yes, Chris Bosh never was as exciting as this was and he wasn’t for a large part of this game dealing with foul trouble and remained scoreless into the third quarter. Bosh in the end of it all was 2-9 and had just 8 points against the team he once led and called his team. This was now DeMar DeRozan’s team but he was having his issues in the second half after being lights out in the first half.
It has been a team effort that had been powering this resurgence though. It would be that which would keep the Raptors hanging around. Amir Johnson was bringing his energy into the fold as he and Jonas Valanciunas both chipped in with 17. Kyle Lowry struggled to score in this game with just 14 but did have 9 assists to keep the ball moving around. In the end it would come down to Lowry getting a fairly good look at three to try to tie the game but failed to hit it as the Heat had an 11-2 run to start the quarter and were able to hang on to get the win 102-97.
James led his Heat with 30 points but was pushed to bring his “A” game on a night he normally would find himself on bench rooting for the reserves at the end of it. DeRozan managed to get 26 to lead the Raptors game effort to knock off Miami.
Dwane Casey went with a tight seven man rotation for most of the night and Raptors seemed to be running on empty at times in the fourth quarter. It was an effort that was to level we have rarely seen from the Raptors in years. It almost cemented the fact that the Raptors rise to above .500 and the top of the struggling Atlantic Division was no fluke.
The Raptors will spend the night in Miami as they are unable to fly out for a re-match with the Pacers who they beat on their home floor. Snow in Indy has shutdown the airport and left the Raptors stranded in Miami which is not a bad place to be stuck.
I had many people on Twitter commenting that I had changed and I was no longer a negative Nancy. Maybe I had made some New Year’s Resolution to be more positive. Sorry to break the news to you all but that was not a resolution I have had made. I have always been a realist and remain one. I still worry if the Raptors can keep this thing together beyond this season. Kyle Lowry and his future with the team now replaces the narrative of tanking for Wiggins. Those days are done and it is now about what this group can do and if Masai Ujiri can hold it together in the long run. You see I haven’t changed what has changed is our Toronto Raptors.
I am happy for two guys more than anyone else in all of this. DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson were kind of left holding the bag when Chris Bosh decided to take his talents to South Beach. They have had to endure all the losing and hard times that have followed. Now they are part of an exciting team that has turned the corner and is winning. You can’t help but feel very happy for both who I have had the privilege of getting to talk to and know throughout those tough times.
I wonder too what Chris Bosh thinks of all of this. You can’t argue that he never had a team as deep and talented a supporting cast as the one DeRozan now enjoys. Hey maybe the old expression of good things coming to good people could be true after all.
Most Raptors fans are great people as well as I have had the good fortune to learn over the time of doing this blog. We all have a team that we can be proud of and gives us the entertainment and effort that fans of this team have so rightfully deserved.