Though it was far from pretty defensively, the Heat managed to squeak past the Toronto Raptors in overtime, 123-116, Tuesday night. The now 15-27 Raptors put up an admirable fight, but just couldn't keep up with Miami in the extra period.
It's not as if the Heat didn't give them every opportunity to win in regulation, either. Toronto looked like it was about to pull away in the first half before the Heat came raging back, and toward the end of regulation, Miami missed a slew of open looks and free throws that the Raptors failed to capitalize from.
Ultimately, Toronto's failure to exploit the Heat's self-inflicted transgressions cost them dearly. Like they aways do, the Heat (specifically Dwyane Wade) turned it on. Miami started slow, but finished strong and was able to pull away in overtime like that was the plan all along.
How exactly did the Heat turn a disappointing start into a nail-biting victory? It's easy to criticize this team for allowing the Raptors to hang around for so long, yet there's no denying that even when they're far from their best, the Heat win in stylistic fashion.
*All stats in this article are accurate as of January 23, 2013.
Yeah, that Mario Chalmers showed up to this one.
Chalmers gave the Heat some incredible minutes on the night, dropping 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting. He looked for his shot plenty (he should have looked for more) and he played some magnificent on- and off-ball defense.
While he had just three assists, I thought he kept the ball moving really well, especially on Miami's classic swing-arounds; the rock barely touched his hands before he dumped it off.
Most of me wanted to give Chalmers an A-, but he made some questionable decisions late in the game, like fouling when he was attempting to rebound.
Other than that, it really was a solid all-around effort from the point guard who is constantly forced to play off the ball.
Now if only he could do this every night...minus fouling out.
Dwyane Wade dominated—quietly.
I still struggle to understand how someone like Wade can drop 35 points on 13-of-19 shooting from the field, yet go nearly unnoticed. Not in the sense that his teammates don't appreciate him, but in the sense that you barely even realize he's put up a near-triple-double.
Watch closely enough, though, and you'll see that he played some spectacular two-way basketball. He did a great job on defense altering shots on the perimeter, spread the ball magnificently, and he continues to rebound (five) better than every big man on his team not named Udonis Haslem and, on this night, Chris Bosh.
Down the stretch, however, the Heat certainly could have used a more efficient Wade. Not only did he miss numerous big free throws, but there were times when he deferred or settled for long twos when he should have attacked.
We can't fault Wade too much, though. He came up big on the last defensive set in regulation, preventing DeMar DeRozan from getting a good look at the basket. His overtime performance (missed free throws and all) was clutch as well.
Simply put, the Heat don't win, or even come close to winning, without Wade in this one.
LeBron James had a triple-double.
Anyone else not surprised? I thought so. Just because we've come to expect it, though, doesn't make it any less impressive.
James continued to spoil us, dropping 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists in 45 minutes. He also shot an efficient 12-of-23 from the field.
That said, James wasn't perfect. He played stellar defense as per usual, but lacked the normal aggression he exudes—simple things like swarming his man or even attempting to deflect passes and contest shots. I just didn't see enough.
LeBron also kind of sputtered during the final minutes of regulation and couldn't get it going in overtime either. Before you crucify me, though, I am fully aware it was admirable the way he chose to become more of a facilitator to his teammates' performance in the extra period.
This is just what James does. He dominates—to the point where we expect nothing but perfection from him. And while he didn't defend or score down the stretch as well as he should have, he found other ways to impact the game and lead Miami to victory.
I'm not going to lie, I wanted to give Udonis Haselm a perfect score. But I didn't.
Before you ask, no, I'm not crazy. I get that he scored just two points and attempted one shot, but his effort on the defensive end was amazing. Though the Heat ultimately posted a minus-two with him on the floor, his 10 rebounds, one steal, one block and general activity really made a difference that can't always be measured in the box score.
Those rebounds especially were huge. Miami came into the game as the league's worst rebounding team and Haslem was a huge part of them out-rebounding the Raptors nearly two-to-one. It wasn't all good for Haslem, though. And I'm not saying he needs to be an offensive connoisseur, but he continues to pass up open mid-rangers that he used to drill.
Obviously, Haslem is valued most for his rebounding and gritty defense, yet a strong offensive game is not mutually exclusive to either. Just saying.
With Chris Bosh, it's like Miami has to choose between him scoring and him rebounding. I'm waiting for him to synchronize the two in perfect harmony. After this game, we're all still waiting.
Bosh grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and did a fantastic job on the offensive glass, but he took just seven shots and tallied a mere 12 points. That's not the kind of offensive production the Heat need from Bosh.
Somewhat surprisingly, I thought Bosh did an adequate job contesting shots. No, it wasn't just the one block he had, but the way he forced some of Toronto's bigs to adjust in mid-air.
Not so surprisingly, though, his aggression on that end continues to teeter back and forth. I want to see him foul players (like Kyle Lowry or Jose Calderon) hard when they get past their man and attack the rim. Far too often, Bosh elected to just give up the easy basket.
Miami was able to pull away without his offensive production, but Bosh has to ensure one-dimensional performances like these don't become a prolonged habit.
Let me start with the bad: Ray Allen needs to play better defense. OK, that's it.
Actually, not entirely. The shooting guard also does need to keep the ball moving a bit better. I'm not saying he hoards it, but he needs to make quicker decisions if he isn't going to pass. OK, now that's it.
Allen continued to be the embodiment of a clutch player in this one. He came up huge in overtime, and his 18 points came on 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Yet, while much is made of Allen's shooting, not nearly enough is made of his off-ball movements on offense. He doesn't just camp out in the corner, he drags his defender about whatever side of the floor he's on, weaving in and out of the paint even.
Allen also feigns fighting over screens. He'll cut to his right like a pick is about to be set, but then favors his left. By that point, he's alone in the corner, gets hit with pass and is in his shooting motion before we even realize the ball's touched his hands.
And we all know what happens then—the Heat win.
We all know the Heat don't necessarily need a strong bench. I mean they do have three guys (you might know them) who can carry the team on their own. That said, you'd like to see of Miami's reserves be more active.
Shane Battier scored just three points, but he played some great defense and I continue to marvel at how great of a hustle player he is. Aside from him, though, there wasn't a lot to like.
Norris Cole can be really aggressive on the offensive end and I love it, but his effort fluctuates. He also needs to learn how to maintain his dribble much better. The way he would sometimes stop mid-move without having an immediate outlet really disrupted some of the Heat's offensive flow.
Speaking of disrupting the offensive flow, we can never neglect to mention the ever zero-dimensional Joel Anthony.
As per usual, his offense was atrocious. He literally missed a gimme alley-oop early in the fourth quarter that was cringe-worthy. His defense wasn't horrible, but it wasn't great either. He failed to contest many shots and struggled to stay alert against a Raptors team that predominantly runs the offense through their wings.
Oh, and someone might want to put out a BOLO for Mike Miller's jump shot. It seems to have escaped him.
And to answer your question, yes, they failed to get a C+ because Chris Andersen didn't see the light of playing time.