The Toronto Raptors used a huge second-half comeback to defeat the Miami Heat on their home floor 106-104.
Here are your takeaways from the game...
The Kyle Lowry/Kawhi Leonard duo
Kyle Lowry's back had flared up prior to shootaround before Wednesday's game, causing him to be a late scratch for the contest. This came as unfortunate news as the Raptors were hoping this could be the game Lowry and Leonard finally get back on the court together. It's been over two weeks since the last time the Raptors had both Leonard and Lowry share the floor.
The last game they played together was December 9th in a home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks - in the eight games since then, the Raptors are 5-3. Toronto has yet to play a game without either of their two stars in the lineup but have played 13 contests with just one of them in the lineup. They are 4-2 in games without Lowry and are 7-2 in games without Leonard.
This can be seen as both a positive and a negative for Raptors fans - on the bright side, this team has found ways to win games without both of their stars playing. On the other side of things, two weeks is a long time for two fairly new teammates to not play in a game together. Though with players of Leonard and Lowry's caliber, there should be no issue in getting their on-floor chemistry back.
The third quarter push
The Raptors trailed by 14 at the half after a rough shooting stretch in the first two quarters. They entered halftime shooting 38.1 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three, a brutal half compared to the Heat's 54.5 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from long range.
The Raptors came out in their 2-3 zone defence in the second half, throwing off the Heat's flow on offence sparking their comeback in return. Toronto outscored Miami 37-21 in the third quarter as great perimeter shooting got the offence going. Leonard scored 12 points in the quarter while Fred VanVleet's three 3-pointers and 11 points helped the run. The Raptors shot 66.7 percent from 3-point range in the third and finished the quarter on a 20-5 run to give themselves a two-point lead going into the fourth.
This was not the first time head coach Nick Nurse has used a 2-3 zone to change the pace of the game and turn things around for his squad. They executed it successfully, forcing the Heat to take bad shots early in the shot clock allowing the Raptors to run in transition. This coaching decision switched the momentum and ultimately played a key role in the Raptors' come-from-behind win.
Rebounding & second chance points
After being outrebounded 19-16 in the first half, the Raptors finished with a 43-35 rebounding differential that helped seal the outcome of the game. Hassan Whiteside had 10 rebounds at the half but Toronto was able to hold him to just two rebounds in the second half to solve a majority of their issues.
The Raptors' had a 10-6 advantage on the offensive boards as their forwards did a fantastic job all game crashing the glass to create extra possessions off of their misses. Toronto in return outscored Miami 17-4 on second chance points, one of the more determining margins in the game.
They had four forwards finish with six or more rebounds as Pascal Siakam (9 rebounds), Leonard (8 rebounds), OG Anunoby (8 rebounds) and Danny Green (6 rebounds) all held their own in an area the Raptors could use some help in with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined. Every player that stepped on the floor for Toronto, aside from VanVleet, recorded at least two rebounds in a team effort to make up for other poor areas of the game such as 16 turnovers.
Danny Green does it again
For a player who was an add-on in the DeMar DeRozan-Kawhi Leonard trade, things have worked out pretty good for the Raptors in acquiring Danny Green.
With 25 seconds on the clock trailing by one, Green stepped up for Toronto again with the game on the line.
GAME WINNER DANNY G! pic.twitter.com/ZRyk98BVHY- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) December 27, 2018
His 3-pointer would become the game-winning shot when Dwyane Wade missed a tip-in at the buzzer on the next possession to earn the Raptors the victory. This is already Green's second game-winner for Toronto with his first coming against the Orlando Magic earlier this season.
Green is a veteran with plenty of playoff experience that will certainly prove invaluable time and time again this season. We've already seen it multiple times and I can guarantee it will not be the last time either. Even when Toronto was shooting poorly, Green was there to keep things under control. He was a constant on offence all game for the Raptors, shooting 7-of-10 from the field knocking down four of his seven 3-point attempts good for 18 points, the second most behind Leonard's 30-point effort.
Raptors snap three-game road losing streak
This road win snaps a three-game losing streak away from home for the Raptors. They had suffered losses at the Philadelphia 76ers, Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets prior to Wednesday's game, their only road losing streak this season. Toronto is an NBA-best 13-6 on the road - that is the best road winning percentage and 13 road wins is a league-most.
While it might seem like just another win over the course of the NBA season, it's encouraging to see them get their road swagger back in a come-from-behind win away from home.