Toronto Gets Some Miami Heat

By Michelle Mayers
Updated: January 31, 2005

TORONTO, CANADA—On the night of January 26th, 19,800 Raptor fans braved bone-chilling January weather conditions to watch their Toronto Raptors face the kings of the South Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat. Everyone anticipated an exciting match-up, particularly in light of Miami’s recent slide in performance – they’ve lost four of their last seven match-ups. This in contrast to the Raps, who have won five of their last seven. The post-Vinsanity Era team has displayed some “New Era Raptor” momentum of late.

But looming in the back of everyone’s mind was the sobering reality that the greatest challenge for the Raptors would be to find a defensive remedy for the one best known as “The Shaq Diesel”.

“He was just too good for us,” said Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell after the game.

Shaq, no one could stop you tonight, but of the six or seven guys, if there’s a guy that did the best out of all of them – could you name one?

“No. I think if I had hit all my free throws I would have had 50. I’m kinda upset with myself for not doing that well from the line this year”.

Now, as much as we have to agree that Shaq is a force to be reckoned with and virtually unstoppable, I think it’s equally safe to contend that he’s also a bit disillusioned about his lack of success at the stripe. But what does he mean that he’s not doing well from the line ‘this year’? When has Shaq ever done well at the line? In fact, it is fairly clear that a good part of the reason why he gets there in the first place is that he doesn’t do well.

Still, Shaq did finish the night with a commanding 33 points and 18 rebounds, and indeed, none of the Raptor big men had any significant success against him. Although, notably, Aaron Williams who hasn’t been getting very much playing time since the December 17th trade, was able to at the very least alter some of O’Neal’s shots, and slow him down somewhat, forcing him to the line more frequently. Aaron’s presence was particularly valuable, considering Eric Williams, Rafael Araujo and Chris Bosh were all in early foul trouble.

Now, in addition to combatting the mammoth centre of the Heat’s offense, the Raptors were also confronted with high shooting performances from Miami’s Eddie Jones, Dwyane Wade, Rasual Butler and Udonis Haslem, scoring 23, 16, 14, and 11 points respectively. The team finished the night with a strong 59.2 shooting percentage.

The Dino’s ball movement and offensive execution had the makings of success, but their inability to convert ultimately became the key to their demise.

“Offensively, we were getting good shots. I mean we’re moving the ball…just missing some easy shots” remarked Rafer Alston, who personally ended the night with a career high performance of 29 points.

But he wasn’t alone. Chris Bosh, Toronto’s budding franchise player had a monstrous night, achieving a career high 27 points, despite only playing 1 minute in the second frame because of early foul trouble. Jalen Rose wasn’t as lethal as in recent outings, contributing 13 points in 33 minutes. Overall, the Raptors really struggled from the field, ending the night with a mere 38% shooting, finally losing this contest by a score of 111 to 96.

This certainly was a winnable game for the Raps, despite the 15 point defeat. There were opportunities to tighten the margin, and at times it seemed as though they might actually do it. Having a brief surge in energy in the third quarter, they were able to cut Miami’s lead to 10, giving the sellout crowd a reason to believe. However on this night, it wasn’t to be and in the final analysis, they simply could not match the dominant play of their competitors.

The next 6 games awaiting this club will by no means be easy. They are about to embark on a tough string of games against formidable opponents, beginning with Charlotte, then Phoenix, Indiana, Washington, Dallas and Cleveland. Now, none of these teams are unbeatable, but if the Raptors intend to have any success they will need a total team effort every night.

That’s all boys and girls….I’m out!