The battle for fifth. Currently the Raptors stand one game back in the loss column and in 10 games will be at least a couple games ahead of the Heat. See, while the Raptors come into a relatively easy stretch of games, the Heat pay visits to Chicago, Cleveland, Boston and Atlanta. The fifth seed hardly means much at this point, right now getting there would mean playing Orlando instead of Atlanta on the road which isn’t a hair’s breadth worth of difference. So what’s the fuss about? Nothing much, it’s mid-season and you find reasons to motivate yourself and this happens to be one of them. A win against Miami isn’t exactly a feather in a cap, but it would continue to signal the resurgence of the Raptors.
We covered the talk out of practice yesterday and even contemplated who we should start instead of DeRozan, who is out for this game after tweaking an ankle. Triano hinted at giving Sonny Weems major time after his DNPCD against the Lakers, such are the dynamics of our lineups. In all likelihood, it’s going to be the veteran Antoine Wright who figures to have the experience advantage over Weems which should come into play when guarding a player of Wade’s caliber.
Miami, Toronto, Charlotte and Chicago occupy the 5-8 spots with only 1 1/2 games separating 5th from 8th as Milwaukee sits 3 games back of the 8th spot. I suppose every game means something but what would really mean something is one of these teams got close to the 4th spot and home-court advantage – Orlando sits 5 1/2 games clear of Miami for that. In a battle of 2010 free-agents, Wade lost to Lebron on Monday after having it stolen late by Lebron. The Raptors are 6-4 in their last 10 and the Heat are 5-5 in the same stretch. Even though neither team is tearing it up, the talk around the clubhouses has been positive since both teams have played very tough schedules. Miami has played the 2nd toughest schedule so far while Toronto is at 3rd and projected for a whopping 51 wins. The feeling is that now that the rough part of the schedule is behind us, the team has a great chance to sore and rise in the standings.
Last time we played the Heat, Michael Beasley and Bosh ate each other for dinner. Beasley’s ability to nail the jumper coupled with his explosiveness gave Bosh a lot of trouble and his play was the decisive factor in Miami’s win. Bosh was conceding Beasley the jumper and he kept hitting it over and over again, you hope that since the trust factor on the team has increased, he’ll be able to check him tight and rely on the interior rotations to provide help on Beasley. Dorell Wright had 16 points in that game and went to the rim too easily too often, Belinelli and Weems will get the assignment on him. The former had an 0-7 night and the latter played sparingly, scoring a few meaningless buckets.
DeRozan’s injury might benefit Weems the most, he’s fallen a little out of favor with the coach as Belinelli’s heated up and Wright’s played in control of his limited skill. He was unavailable against Cleveland and has gotten a run of 9, 0, 6, 4, and 0 minutes of late. His effectiveness in the open floor can’t be questioned, but when the game slows down his success becomes dependent on his mid-range jumper and that’s still a work in progress, although his shot-mechanics are excellent.
We also got killed on the boards last time, the Heat were +13 on the glass, +8 in second-chance points and +22 in the paint. Their bench had a 24-11 edge in rebounds and a 45-31 points advantage, safe to say that’s where the game was lost. We need to punish Miami where they’re weak – at center with Jermaine O’Neal and at PG with Rafer Alston. Calderon and Jack should be able to get whatever they want against Alston, who has usurped Chalmers as the starting PG. (BTW, where’s Rafer’s ACC night?). I don’t know how they determine who’s playing what position, but I find it hard to believe that Wade plays 70% of his time at the off-guard considering just how much he handles the ball.
The Raptors are a 3.5 point favorites and with us being 9-1 in our last 10 games at home, you have to like our chances. It’s going to be a physical affair as both teams look to continue their recent good form, you might even see a playoff-type atmosphere on a Wednesday night and a close hard-fought game, but I think in the end the Raptors have more firepower and it’ll show.
Chad Ford says “all other signs point to Bosh leaving”. I’d be concerned about that if it weren’t for all signs pointing to Chad Ford being an uninformed douche who’s never gotten anything right.
Let’s go Raps.Follow @raptorsrepublic