The Toronto Raptors advanced to 48-19 on the season with a 21-point win over the Miami Heat Sunday afternoon.
Toronto was led by a 24-point, 10-assist, seven-rebound performance from All-Star guard Kyle Lowry while seven other Raptors finished in double figures. Bam Adebayo's 19 points led the Heat but their leading scorer Josh Richardson was held to just eight points - it was just the sixth time this season that he failed to reach double digits.
From Toronto's hot start to the significance of its big win, here are some takeaways from Sunday's game…
3-point shooting sets the tone
An early start to the game didn't keep the Raptors from coming out of the gates firing; the team shot 7-for-10 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and got out to a 32-27 lead after one.
By the half, Toronto had eclipsed its season average of 11.7 made 3-pointers per game as it entered the break having connected on 12 of its 21 3-point attempts while Miami had hit just three. The Raptors used their hot shooting to take a 68-54 lead into the break
Sunday afternoon marked the 14th time this season that Toronto scored 65 or more points in the first half and it is now 13-1 in such games.
The Raptors finished the night tying a franchise record by hitting 21 3-pointers and did so at a 52.5 percent clip, outscoring the Heat 63-24 from deep. The deep ball is a key that can unlock the capabilities of Nurse's offence and Toronto is 11-2 when hitting 15 or more this season.
Sharpening the rotation
With Kawhi Leonard sidelined for the 19th time this season, Nick Nurse elected to put Patrick McCaw into the starting unit - a calculated decision.
Although Fred VanVleet is still a few weeks away from returning, McCaw starting meant that the Raptors rotation largely remained intact. Only 15 games stand between Toronto and its sixth-consecutive postseason appearance, and depth can prove to be the team's advantage as it looks to make a deep run.
With Marc Gasol now one month into his tenure with the Raptors and Jeremy Lin just completing his ninth game with the team, the more time this duo spends getting acclimated with the rest of the second unit, the better.
Norman Powell's 15 points led the reserves, who finished the night with 46 points. As the team returns to full strength, the bench could very well propel the Raptors to a few playoff wins.
To find a flaw in today's performance from the Raptors might possibly be nitpicking, but the team's 21 turnovers could be a cause for concern.
Led by Lowry's six, Toronto committed over 20 turnovers for just the fifth time this season; interestingly enough, the team has won four of the five games that it has given the ball away over 20 times.
Two of the five games were early afternoon matinees.
The Raptors were fortunate in that the Heat were only able to convert the 21 turnovers into 16 points, but Toronto's chances of playing an early afternoon game in the playoffs are rather high. While shooting wasn't a problem today, taking care of the ball needs to be a priority for this team when there's an early tip.
Taking care of business
With the win, the Raptors advance to 28-3 this season in games against teams under .500.
It wasn't a tight win, either - Toronto entered the final frame up 12 points and cruised to a 21-point win. The benefit of earning such a convincing win on the first end of a back-to-back is the fact that a number of players were granted extra rest.
Kyle Lowry played a team-high 35 minutes of action, but starters Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, and Pascal Siakam sat out the entire fourth quarter, which is also a product of the bench's exemplary play.
11 of the Raptors 15 remaining games are against below-.500 opponents. A continuation of this season-long trend should result in a rested team with plenty of momentum heading into the postseason.