Week three began with a hot shooting Heat squad facing the .500 Raptors. As Max Bien-Aimé (9 points, 6 rebounds) opened the game with a three-pointer, the Raptors seemed convinced on keeping up with the backcourt of Luu and A. Vo who accounted for over 75 percent of their team’s scoring in their win over the Grizzlies last week.
The Heat, however, had other plans as they held the Raptors to only 8 points through the first quarter while shooting an impressive 25 percent from the arc, and 75 percent at the line throughout the game.
Relying heavily on the stellar play of Ernst Mecejour (26 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks, 4 steals), the Raptors would try to keep it close through the second quarter, narrowing the margin to 7 points, but were never able to overcome their first quarter deficit.
Despite Mecejour’s all around performance, the Raptors just could not get a stop against the Heat who were once again led by Andy Vo (30 points, 17 rebounds, 4 steals) and Robert Luu (13 points, 5 assists). Even without point guard Vinh Nguyen, the Heat had no trouble moving the ball around as they welcomed back Steve Vo, who made 6 of 13 shots for 14 points and 6 boards en route to a convincing 63-45 win over the Raptors.
Remarkably, we never got to see the same rhythm from Thomas Carrier and Charles Loic Danan that we had come to expect throughout their first few games. Carrier who came off a 22 rebound, 4 block performance didn’t show quite the same defensive prowess as he was only able to muster 6 boards and a block against the Heat. Danan, who continued to play hard with 9 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, often seemed tentative as he went on to commit 9 turnovers. Look for these two to pick up the slack, next week, when they face the Grizzlies.
Speaking of the Grizz, they had their hands full against a tireless Bulls squad who were looking for their first W of the season.
The Grizzlies, who would play this game without their leading rebounder Tojo Rakotondrabe (17.5 rpg), shared the ball better than they have all season long. With Sheeraz Chaudhry (21 points, 12 rebounds, 2 steals) and Mohamed Kahla (20 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 assists) making their presence felt, the Grizzlies would take a 32-19 lead into halftime.
But the Bulls, as they often have, would persist. What looked like open jumpers and uncontested layups against them in the first half became forced turnovers and feisty battles for the ball in the second, thanks largely to Alex Labarces who would collect 5 steals and 8 rebounds, and Herby Estel who pulled down 15 boards including 13 defensive ones.
Not only did the Bulls hold their opponent to a mere 10 points in the third quarter but they also mounted a furious run that would put them ahead, 44-42, going into the fourth.
It seemed like the Bulls could do no wrong as their smothering defense was rewarded on the other end of the court with Shady Abdalla (22 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists on 47 percent shooting) and Paul Younan (24 points, 16 boards, including 11 offensive on 52 percent shooting) putting forth their best performances of the season.
Early in final frame, Younan and Johnny Cha (15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals) traded long-distance three-pointers that evened the score at 47. However, the Bulls, in the absence of their big man Kevin Russell, would struggle to prevent the Grizzlies and their second chance opportunities late in the game. With a few extra rebounds and conversions in the paint, the Grizzles ultimately pulled away in the final two minutes, closing out the Bulls, 67-62.
The Good: Shady Abdalla has been making bank-shots from angles that even Tim Duncan could learn from.
The Bad: The Bulls commit a season-high 31 turnovers, almost 8 per quarter.
The Notable: Ernst Mecejour continues to post massive stat lines as he contributed over 57% of his team’s scoring.
Photo Credit: Ameed El-Ghoul - Sphinx Photography