Lowry’s return not enough as Raptors defence falters in loss to streaking Heat

Jimmy Butler went to the foul line in the final moments of the fourth quarter Wednesday night, talking and smiling the entire time.

There’s a lot for Butler and the Miami Heat to be happy about right now.

Butler scored 27 points, 14 of them in the final quarter, and the Heat won their fourth consecutive game by topping the Toronto Raptors 116-108 on Wednesday night.

Butler also had 10 assists and eight rebounds for the Heat, plus a season-high three 3-pointers — two of them in the final minutes. Bam Adebayo had 19 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, Duncan Robinson added 17 points and Goran Dragic scored 15 in his return from an ankle injury.

“We’re just out there having fun,” Adebayo said.

WATCH | Raptors fall to Heat:

Miami beats Toronto 116-108, big game for Jimmy Butler with 27 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. 1:02

It was the eighth win in the last 11 games for the Heat, who started the season 7-14.

“Everybody that played really contributed at different points in the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And then Jimmy’s game was the quintessential, all-around winning basketball game.”

Kyle Lowry, returning from a thumb injury, scored 24 for Toronto. Fred VanVleet also had 24 for the Raptors, Norman Powell scored 17 and OG Anunoby had 14 for Toronto.

“I thought we outplayed them,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I thought we outplayed them in almost all facets. … The ball just bounced their way a lot.”

Powell made a 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring to get Toronto within 100-98 before Butler had the game’s next three plays of any significance — a 3-pointer, a steal on the ensuing possession and a layup to push Miami’s lead back to seven.

Another 3-pointer by Butler with 3:23 left restored the seven-point edge, and Miami kept the lead the rest of the way.

“He’s our leader and we need him,” Dragic said.

WATCH | Should VanVleet have made the all-star game?:

Vivek Jacob is joined by Raptors reporter William Lou, to discuss Fred VanVleet not being selected to the 2021 All-Star Game and the Raptors getting back to the .500 mark after a slow 2-8 start to the season. 4:40

Lowry scored 12 of Toronto’s first 20 points in the opening 6 1/2 minutes, and he made a 31-footer over Miami’s zone midway through the second quarter to tie it at 48.

The next 2:51 belonged to Miami.

The Heat went on a 17-2 spurt in that time, six players scoring during the run, to open a 15-point lead and took a 66-56 edge into halftime.

Toronto scored the first 10 points of the second half, erasing the deficit, but a 17-6 answer by the Heat helped them take a 92-85 lead into the fourth. And the Raptors never led at any point in the final 31 1/2 minutes.

“It was fun to be back out there with the fellas,” said Lowry, who acknowledged that his thumb was hurting at times after contact Wednesday. “We gave it a tough fight, but we didn’t pull it out at the end.”

2nd-half schedule revealed

A quick look at the Raptors schedule for the second half of the shortened NBA season had Nick Nurse already thinking about managing minutes.

A gruelling four-game western road trip that sees Toronto play four games in six days at Denver, Utah, and Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers highlights the Raptors’ second half of the season.

“It looked busy. It looked busy. Looked like a lot of games. Felt like a [United States Basketball League] schedule,” Nurse joked before the Raptors tipped off against the Miami Heat on Wednesday.

The USBL was a pro spring league that folded in 2008.

“You used to say ‘Oh you’ve got a back-to-back here in a couple weeks,’ and now you’ve got one every week, so that thought can go past your head,” Nurse said.

“In all seriousness though, there’s got to probably be a look at — I haven’t done it yet — but thinking about managing that. I think that maybe getting more guys on the floor in certain situations and maybe using a deeper roster in some fashion or other. I’m kicking those ideas around in my head, or I’ll start to. I’ll probably leave that for a few days.”

WATCH | The legacy of basketball in Canada:

North Courts is back for another episode and this week we’re talking all about the trailblazers and icons of Canadian basketball. Vivek, Meghan, and Jevohn give their starting 5 rosters for their all-time Team Canadas, and discuss the latest Canadian basketball news. 10:59

The NBA announced the schedule in two halves this season in order to add make-up games for COVID-19 postponements. The Raptors haven’t had any games postponed. The season has been shortened to 72 games, further compressed because of the Tokyo Olympics, which open July 23. The NBA Finals could go until July 22.

The Raptors tip off the second half on March 11 against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, one of 19 games at their temporary home at Amalie Arena in Tampa. They’ll play 35 games in total in the second half.

The Raptors will make four U.S. national television appearances. Their April 24 game at New York will be televised by ESPN, while TNT is broadcasting the May 4 game versus the Clippers in Los Angeles. NBA TV has the Raptors games April 11 at New York and May 2 against the Lakers in L.A.

The Raptors’ longest homestand is five games from April 13 to 21. They play eight back-to-back sets.

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