Can Raptors Advance to Eastern Conference Finals Without Jonas Valanciunas?
The Toronto Raptors head into game four of their round two playoff series, up 2-1 over the Miami Heat. Jonas Valanciunas is a massive reason why they have such an advantage. He’s also a huge reason why the two-seed in the Eastern Conference may have just seen the last of what could have been a deep playoff run.
Down Goes Jonas
Per reports, Valanciunas has been ruled out for the remainder of round two due to an ankle injury the star center suffered in Toronto’s game three win in Miami.
Jonas Valanciunas will be out the rest of the Heat series with a sprained ankle, which he suffered in Game 3. https://t.co/FRHzs2OLPg
— SLAM Magazine (@SLAMonline) May 8, 2016
Valanciunas had a monster first half before succumbing to injury and was initially trying to work his way back into the game before the team ultimately decided to hold him out.
It’s a massive blow on both ends of the court, as Valanciunas had quickly developed into one of Toronto’s more reliable scoring threats – especially inside the paint – and was also making his presence known on the glass.
The only silver lining here is Valanciunas should be able to make it back if the Raptors can win two more games and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, while backup center Bismack Biyombo potentially does give them enough of a presence at the five spot to hope to overcome the loss.
Biyombo is arguably even better than Valanciunas as a defensive presence, anyways, so the main concern has to be Toronto figuring their offense out while Valanciunas is on the sidelines. Considering they’ve been shaky in that department and badly needed big games out of Valanciunas the past two contests to earn wins, it’s a troubling notion.
This is a major blow on paper, but Toronto does have a quality big man to step in place of Valanciunas, still holds the home court edge, has a 2-1 series lead and could have lucked out with Miami center Hassan Whiteside sustaining an injury of his own (sprained knee).
Whiteside listed as “questionable” in Heat game notes for tomorrow.
— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) May 8, 2016
It’s entirely possible these injuries are a wash and it comes down to which offense can control the tempo and put up more points. For now, Toronto still has a minor edge and we’ll learn a lot more about what we can expect out of them for the rest of this series when they take on the Heat in South Beach again in game four.
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