Move over .500 will have to wait as shorthanded Heat fall 112-104 in Toronto – Twin Cities
The other side of .500 will have to wait at least until Sunday night, against the emerging Cleveland Cavaliers.
Because prosperity has proven to have its limits so far this season for the Miami Heat.
At .500 for the first time after extending their winning streak to three with Monday night’s home victory over the Phoenix Suns, the Heat again find themselves south of that milepost, falling to 7-8 with Wednesday night’s 112-104 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena.
“We didn’t play well down the stretch, had some glitches,” guard Max Strus said.
With Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro out, the Heat lacked the firepower and power play to compete against a Raptors roster that also was shorthanded.
Not even an early spark produced from first-round pick Nikola Jovic could prevent the Heat’s road losing streak from reaching four, done in by a 21-0 third-quarter Toronto scoring surge.
On a night the Heat could have used the best of Jimmy Butler, they instead got 13 points from their leading man, with Butler declining comment afterward.
In his second return to Toronto, Kyle Lowry had 19 points for the Heat, who also got 20 from Max Strus, 16 from Gabe Vincent, 14 from Caleb Martin and 13 from Jovic, who made his first NBA start.
The Raptors were led by the season-high 32 points of O.G. Anunoby and 23 from Fred VanVleet.
The Heat’s four-game trip continues with a Friday night game against the Washington Wizards, the Sunday game in Cleveland and then a Monday night game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Heat ultimately were done in by a 43-23 rebounding deficit and 23 turnovers. That left them with only 66 shots from the field, compared to 86 for Toronto.
“That’s the game right there,” Lowry said of the shot differential.
The Heat actually outshot the Raptors .545 to .512.
“I thought we did enough good things outside of those two areas to give yourself a chance to win the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of the rebounding and turnovers.
Five Degrees of Heat from Wednesday’s game:
1. Closing time: The Heat led 31-27 at the end of the first quarter and 60-54 at halftime, going into the fourth quarter down 84-79.
The Raptors then went up 10 with 7:58 to play, but the Heat crawled back within 102-100 with 3:52 to play on a Strus jumper, setting up yet another tight finish.
From there, a Chris Boucher dunk put Toronto up five with 2:03 left and a Boucher 3-pointer extending Toronto’s lead to 110-102 with 1:29 left.
The Heat closed with a small lineup, going without a center at the finish on a night they were outscored 26-5 on second-chance points.
“Even after some of our good defensive possessions, too many of those ended up in second-chance opportunities,” Spoelstra said. “They were outrebounding us no matter what lineup we had.”
2. Worst of times: When Butler converted a dunk with 8:52 left in the third period, it gave the Heat a 70-69 lead.
They would not score again until 1:34 remained in the quarter, on a three-point play by Vincent, with Toronto putting together a 21-0 run in the interim.
Yes, seven minutes, 18 seconds without a point.
The Raptors surge included five of the Heat’s 19 turnovers through three quarters.
Anunoby and Scottie Barnes scored 28 of Toronto’s 30 third-quarter points, shooting a combined 11 of 17.
“You have to credit them. they did force turnovers — at key moments,” Spoelstra said.
3. Back again: The game was the second in Toronto for Lowry since moving on to the Heat in 2021 free agency after nine seasons with the Raptors.
While it wasn’t as emotional a night as last season’s return, Lowry said it still was meaningful.
“It’s always great to come home, always great to be here, always great to be in the city,” he said. “I don’t think it gets any easier. I think you get a little bit more comfortable. Last year was definitely a lot of butterflies.”
Lowry received a warm ovation when he was introduced as the last of the Heat’s starters.
He closed 6 of 9 from the field, but with only two assists.
He exited with praise for his former teammates.
“They played their game to a T tonight,” Lowry said.
4. Jovic starts: With Adebayo out, and with Dewayne Dedmon dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, Jovic got his first NBA start, in only his fifth NBA appearance.
The 19-year-old first-round pick out of Serbia had played 24 minutes prior to Wednesday. He became the Heat’s youngest starter in the team’s 35 seasons, bypassing when Herro also made his debut at 19.
“I was just waiting for them to call my name,” Jovic said of biding his time this season.
Jovic scored seven of the Heat’s first 12 points, opening 3 for 3, including a 3-pointer. He had 11 points when he checked out for the first time, with 4:09 left in the opening period in favor of Dedmon.
“They really set me up,” Jovic said of his teammates in regard to his early scoring. But I have to be more efficient in rebounding.”
Jovic closed with three rebounds in his 23:49.
“I was encouraged by his play,” Spoelstra said. “That’s not easy to do that. We felt putting him with the starters would give him the best chance.
“He’s just going to continue to get a lot better.”
Dedmon had been listed as questionable earlier in the day, having missed two previous games with the ailment. Dedmon played 15:55 without a rebound.
Strus again started in place of Herro.
The Heat’s starting five of Jovic, Strus, Butler, Lowry and Martin had yet to play together this season.
5. Five out: The Heat were without ailing Adebayo, Herro, Victor Oladipo and Omer Yurtseven, with Udonis Haslem missing the game for personal reasons.
Adebayo was somewhat of a late scratch, the Heat not announcing he would be sitting out with a knee bruise until after the completion of their morning shootaround.
“Two or three games ago he had a knee contusion,” Spoelstra said, “and just like a lot of guys, he tends to hit in the same spot every single game. He was able to finish the game [Monday against the visiting Phoenix Suns] and it’s just really sore today. He’ll be day to day.”
As for Oladipo, the only other of the sidelined five who traveled, there was another vigorous pregame shooting session with assistant coach Anthony Carter.