- PG: Goran Dragic
- SG: Dwyane Wade
- SF: Joe Johnson
- PF: Luol Deng
- C: Hassan Whiteside
Game 1 Preview of Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors
The Miami Heat face off with the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, as the two Eastern Conference foes tip off their second round NBA playoff series.
Both teams enter round two on the heels of tough first round series that went to a seventh game, as the Heat demolished the Charlotte Hornets at home in game seven and Toronto squeaked by the Indiana Pacers in a close home win over the weekend.
Regardless, both teams move on to round two and will play for the right to gain entry to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they are likely to take the on the #1 seeded Cleveland Cavaliers. This marks the first ever playoff meeting between the Raptors and Heat, but the two teams are somewhat familiar with each other after facing off four times during the regular season (Toronto won the series, 3-1).
Miami Heat Preview
Miami has survived another blood clot issue from Chris Bosh to make it back to the playoffs after sitting the action out last year, and they even surprised some by moving on past a good Charlotte team. Miami, in fact, looked down and out in game six on the road, but a driven Dwyane Wade put the team on his back and hit several clutch shots to help force a game seven in Miami.
The Heat enjoyed a strong 2015-16 season that saw them snag the Southeast Division title and the 3-seed, which now has them in a good spot against a Raptors team that just now won their first playoff series since 2001.
Miami is at their best when playing their game, as they can grind opponents down on the defensive end and also have a plethora of scoring options to put the ball in the hole on the offensive side. Their main asset is their tempo and ability to control the pace of games, and the slower things are, the better odds they have of pulling out a gritty win. The Heat are also at their best at home this year, where they went an impressive 28-13 during the regular season.
The key to this series could very well end up being what Goran Dragic gives them, as he was very quiet in round one until blowing up to help seal the deal in game seven. With Wade possibly corralled by defensive stopper DeMarre Carroll, it could be up to Dragic and others to push the Heat to round three. Getting off to a hot start and stealing one of two road games to open this series could be crucial, as well.
|5/1/16||VS Hornets||Win 106-73|
|4/29/16||at Hornets||Win 97-90|
|4/27/16||VS Hornets||Lost 90-88|
|4/25/16||at Hornets||Lost 89-85|
|4/23/16||at Hornets||Lost 96-80|
Toronto Raptors Preview
Toronto looked very shaky in round one, as they got in a 1-0 hole early and allowed the Pacers to control the tempo too often in what was never supposed to be a full seven-game series. While the Raptors may have been mildly exposed as a less than elite 2-seed that simply lacks experience and possibly even a killer instinct, they did end up getting the job done and finally advanced in the playoffs for the first time since the days of Vince Carter.
That’s a big deal, but the lack of experience was pretty obvious with how they kept giving Indiana new life, especially late in game seven, with the game looking rather in doubt even up to the final minute. Had it not been for some tragic Pacers mistakes, this series could look a lot different and the Raptors could be buried under their playoff woes even still.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Jonas Valanciunas
Toronto did exorcise those demons, though, and with home court advantage, a smothering defense and a balanced offense, they need to be taken seriously when the Heat come to town for games one and two. The big thing will be a quick start, as it’s fairly arguable the Raptors may not have the psyche to withstand another slow start – especially against a better team in Miami.
That should have Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan coming out as focused as ever in game one, and if the Raptors can pull from what we saw during the regular season from this series, they should have a good chance at dictating how this series unfolds.
|5/1/16||VS Pacers||Win 89-84|
|4/29/16||at Pacers||Lost 101-83|
|4/26/16||VS Pacers||Win 102-99|
|4/23/16||at Pacers||Lost 100-83|
|4/21/16||at Pacers||Win 101-85|
Matchup Preview: Heat @ Raptors
This is going to be a very tough series to predict, both for the long haul and on a per game basis. Vegas comes in liking Toronto for a few good reasons: they finally showed resolve by winning a first round playoff series, they’ve been very good at home, they’re balanced and they also are pretty good on the road.
|3/12/16||Raptors 112, Heat 104 (OT)|
|1/22/16||Raptors 101, Heat 81|
|12/15/15||Raptors 108, Heat 94|
|11/8/15||Heat 96, Raptors 76|
Of course, that’s what we saw during the regular season. In their first round playoff series, they got abused at times by a one-dimensional and supposedly inferior Pacers team, losing at home right away in game one and allowing what should have been a five-game series get to a seventh game.
Miami carries in the same issues. They’re stout at home, they defend well and they have a methodical offense, yet when it came down to defensive battles where both Miami and Indy scored less than 96 points, Charlotte won all three games. There was an outlier with Miami winning one game 97-90 (it was a pretty huge game six road win, too), but the point could be that as much as Miami likes to slow things down, they could be in trouble in some spots when that happens.
That’s bad news potentially, as Toronto owns home court advantage, looked better between the two in the regular season meetings and was second lowest in the league on the year when it comes to offensive pace.
The point? Toronto slows things down even more than Miami, defends at a high level and generally makes the most of it’s offensive possessions. The trick there is that when their offense is clicking, their defense and methodical pace is making sure the opposition’s doesn’t.
When you look at personnel, it’s tough to see a glaring hole on either side. Dragic and Lowry offer an awesome matchup at the point guard spot, both teams have a bunch of iso offensive scorers and they also have killers center play via Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo and Hassan Whiteside.
The kicker may be sicking DeMarre Carroll and Norman Powell on D-Wade and seeing if Miami’s supporting cast can pick up the slack. Of course, on the flip side, the versatile Luol Deng could be looking at a very favorable mismatch for the second series in a row, as the Raptors do not have a reliable four on their entire roster.
Eventually the Raptors should figure the Heat out, just as they did with the Pacers. However, much like Indiana last round, this series could get off to a bumpy start.
|Win/Loss||48-34 (20-21 away)||56-26 (32-9 at home)|
This is going to be a very interesting series, as these teams play very similarly, are both very balanced, are at their best at home and can really buckle down on defense. Toronto has the regular season series edge, is better both at home and away and on paper has the more explosive offense. We could very well see a full seven games series and numerous close battles.
Recommended Game 1 Bet
I’ll just be honest, I don’t trust the Raptors. They haven’t been to this stage of the playoffs in over 15 years and they almost blew it in round one against an inferior team. They all the way blew it in a series they should have won in round one last year, too.
There is a lot of logic surrounding Toronto still pulling this series out, and maybe they do (in 7, likely), but Miami is a better team than the Pacers. They’re more disciplined, they’re more balanced and they’re more experienced. If Toronto struggled with the Pacers, they’re in for a fire fight. That should have Dwyane Wade and co. coming in strong to prove a point – that they’re the aggressors.
Toronto is very strong at home and the Heat aren’t great on the road, but we don’t even need Miami to win. We just need a close game and Miami to finish within four points. Miami did lose the season series 3-1, but one of their losses was in a thrilling overtime game. This series should be rather close and down to the wire. Expect fireworks right away in game one with Miami shooting for the upset.
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