The Toronto Raptors will visit the Miami Heat for the second time in 12 days on Saturday, and they hope for a better result this time.
Miami defeated Toronto 104-99 on Jan. 17 with Tyler Herro scoring 23 points off the bench. The teams will meet for the third time in short order on Tuesday in Toronto.
The Heat won their third game in a row on Friday, posting a 121-114 victory over the visiting Clippers. Los Angeles, which trailed by 23 points in the third quarter, closed within four points in the final minute but couldn’t complete the comeback.
The result was Miami’s ninth win in the past 11 games.
The Raptors will play for the first time since Wednesday, when they opened a three-game road trip with a 111-105 loss to the Chicago Bulls.
Toronto trailed by as many as 19 points in the second half but took the lead with 3:11 to play, only to see the Bulls end the game with a 9-2 run. The Raptors made only 60.7 percent of their free throws (17 of 28) while losing for the sixth time in their past nine games.
The game at Chicago started a stretch in which Toronto is playing 11 of 15 games on the road.
The Heat have been able to keep rolling despite injuries and COVID-19 issues. They were without former Raptors star Kyle Lowry (personal) for the sixth straight game Friday.
“Pretty much everybody on our team knows exactly who they are,” said Miami’s P.J. Tucker, who scored 18 points on Friday. “That’s a big deal. We have a team where all the veterans are not struggling with identity. Most of them want it at a high level. We all know what we do well, we know what we don’t do well. We all know each other really well and we all have a common goal.”
Tucker said Jimmy Butler sets the example.
“To me, I think he’s one of the most unselfish superstars in the NBA,” Tucker said. “It’s unbelievable. He literally tells me games he doesn’t want to score. He’s like, ‘Just be ready. I’m going to pass you the ball.’ That’s just his mindset, and he still will play defense and do all the other great things that he does. He’s super unselfish and wants to see us succeed and play well.”
Butler (big toe irritation) was listed as questionable for Friday, but he played and had 26 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals.
Toronto has been without Fred VanVleet (sore right knee) for the past two games. He could return Saturday although he was listed as questionable. VanVleet participated in the Raptors’ 90-minute practice on Friday.
The Raptors defeated the visiting Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday before going to Chicago to complete the first half of four back-to-backs on their schedule over two weeks.
“We’re coming into a really heavy schedule with a number of back-to-backs,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said earlier this week. “It’s like two a week, two back-to-backs a week here, multiple weeks coming at us. So I would say that we’re going to try to move the rotations quicker and deeper.
“I think there’s opportunities for certain guys on certain nights and maybe other guys on other nights, but I think that now, with what we have coming at us now, I would hope that we’re probably gonna play nine, 10 guys each night.”
A week ago, Nurse used a seven-man rotation that was more like a six considering how little the seventh man played. However, the schedule allowed for some recovery time then.
–Field Level Media