- PG: Goran Dragic
- SG: Dwyane Wade
- SF: Joe Johnson
- PF: Luol Deng
- C: Justise Winslow
Pick & Preview of Game 7 Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors welcome the Miami Heat back to Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon, as the two go head to head one final time in a climactic game seven. The Heat and Raptors have played out a long, gritty second round series, and it’s only fitting for the conclusion to wrap up in what is the second straight seven-game series for both teams of these playoffs.
A date with LeBron James and the top-seeded Cleveland Cavaliers awaits in the Eastern Conference Finals for the winner, a stage the Heat have experienced numerous times, yet Toronto has never even sniffed. Sunday’s game seven marks the furthest Toronto has ever been in the NBA playoffs, but one more win gives them extra history, after they found a way to win their first playoff series last round since 2001.
Toronto failed to close out their series in game six in both of their playoff series thus far, but will once again have an opportunity to do so at home, just like they did last round. Will Toronto’s balance and home court edge propel them to a huge showdown with the Cavs, or will Dwyane Wade’s drive and Miami’s experience give them the edge they need to advance? Game seven in Canada awaits.
Miami Heat Preview
Going into game six, it was obvious the Heat were at a disadvantage when you looked at team health and roster depth, as the injury to center Hassan Whiteside hurt them more than Jonas Valanciunas going down did for Toronto.
Dwyane Wade’s scoring and late-game heroics were enough to keep things interesting for pretty much the entire series, but too often in Miami’s losses – and sometimes even in their wins – he was doing too much of the heavy-lifting on his own. At some point, the likes of Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and/or Goran Dragic would have to show up and give him some help.
That’s precisely what happened in game six, as Dragic erupted for 30 points and gave Wade the support he sorely needed.
As huge as that was, the big move was starting 6-7 rookie, Justise Winslow, at center. Amar’e Stoudemire was sent to the bench and head coach Erik Spoelstra opted to get creative to make up for his lack of size. Instead of trying to compensate, he punted the position completely and went as small as possible to give the Heat a different advantage.
The real question within this constantly evolving matchup is if Spoelstra sticks with Winslow, and if it can work for a second game in a row. Spoelstra is knowingly giving up rebounding to get more shooters to space the floor, but Winslow is a tenacious defender and gives maximum effort. If successful, the move can allow Josh McRoberts to come off the bench and provide some scoring and rebounding in a bit role.
It worked in game six, allowing Dwyane Wade and Dragic to fuel the offense. If it can work again, we may see the Heat enter their sixth Eastern Conference Finals in the past seven years.
|5/13/16||VS Raptors||Win 103-91|
|5/11/16||at Raptors||Lost 99-91|
|5/9/16||VS Raptors||Win 94-87 (OT)|
|5/7/16||VS Raptors||Lost 95-91|
|5/5/16||at Raptors||Lost 96-92 (OT)|
Toronto Raptors Preview
Going into game six, we refused to bite on Toronto sealing the deal in South Beach for three key reasons: they were playing in Miami, the Heat are pretty good and Toronto is impossible to trust.
One thing that doesn’t change as we prepare for game seven is that Toronto is still tough to trust. We should probably point out that they did find a way to take care of business in their game seven last round against the Pacers, and while they’ve never been to the Eastern Conference Finals, that could still work to their advantage. The experience isn’t there like it is with Miami, but “firsts” have to come around eventually – even in an NBA that normally provides playoffs with few surprises.
However, the Thunder topped the Spurs and the Clippers died, so perhaps this year we’re getting a little extra crazy spiked into this playoff punch.
- PG: Kyle Lowry
- SG: DeMar DeRozan
- SF: DeMarre Carroll
- PF: Patrick Patterson
- C: Bismack Biyombo
Whatever the case may be, Toronto is going to have to do so banged up and with their backs somewhat against the walls. Miami comes in with little pressure and way more experience, while the Raptors are still without big man Jonas Valanciunas. The only good take away there is that Bismack Biyombo has been a force on the glass in all three of his starts. The only problem? In game six he wasn’t at all an asset on offense.
Toronto needs to make Miami pay for starting Justise Winslow at center, which may mean an enhanced role for Biyombo and/or their other bigs. Winslow is a strong defender, but he gives up a ton of size and strength in the paint, and while the Raptors do not have a single elite offensive big man at their disposal anymore, they should at least try to exploit this clear defensive hole for Miami.
Ultimately, that may not even matter. The real kicker could be their guard play, as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan finally were on the same wavelength in game six, yet their cohesion wasn’t enough to prevent defeat. That may have been just bad luck and Miami wanting a win badly at home. The two need to both come to work again on their own court in game seven, and if they do, it could make for a huge win for the Raptors.
|5/13/16||at Heat||Lost 103-91|
|5/11/16||VS Heat||Win 99-91|
|5/9/16||at Heat||Lost 94-87 (OT)|
|5/7/16||at Heat||Win 95-91|
|5/5/16||VS Heat||Win 96-92 (OT)|
Matchup Preview: Heat @ Raptors
Hassan Whiteside has officially been ruled out for game seven, leaving a hole at center yet again for both teams. As we’ve touched on before, however, this hurts Toronto a lot less than Miami, and if Biyombo can bring more of an offensive touch, it could provide a huge lift for the Raptors.
|5/13/16||Heat 103, Raptors 91|
|5/11/16||Raptors 99, Heat 91|
|5/9/16||Heat 94, Raptors 87 (OT)|
|5/7/16||Raptors 95, Heat 91|
|5/5/15||Raptors 96, Heat 92 (OT)|
|5/3/16||Heat 102, Raptors 96 (OT)|
|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|
Miami did combat their center issue by throwing a curveball with Winslow at the five, but that isn’t a move of logic. It is one of desperation. It worked for one game, but if the Raptors are to advance, they need to exploit that play and make the Heat look foolish for trying to run so small.
It’s up for debate whether or not the Raptors are sly or focused enough to pull that off, partly because they lack experience and also because the main guy in the middle they’d be asking to get the job done (Biyombo) historically is not an offensive dynamo.
The Raptors still have the edge here, however. They were the far more productive and balanced team throughout the regular season, they gained confidence by winning a seven-game series last round and they usually protect their home base. Experience is going to be the key factor on Sunday afternoon. Will Toronto wilt under the pressure, or can they fight back against history and advance the furthest in the NBA playoffs they’ve ever been?
|Win/Loss||48-34 (20-21 away)||56-26 (32-9 at home)|
Recommended Game 7 Bet
I’m taking the points, not a straight up pick. I’d lean toward Miami if you need a straight up pick, but the points are the play. Miami is far more trustworthy, as they’ve won four straight game seven’s and just like Toronto, dispatched a pretty good Hornets team in round one in a full series. They have the experience and the mental edge, plus they’re not supposed to win, so they’ll both take that as a slight and possibly use it to ease off some of the pressure.
Once again, we just don’t trust the Raptors. That, plus the fact that just one game in this entire series has been decided by more than 8 points, while three of the games in this series have gone into overtime. Miami probably wins this game to get the “upset”, but even if they don’t, I expect them to keep it close to the end.
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