It’s game two in the Rudy Gay Era in Toronto, and if the Clippers weren’t enough of a trial-by-fire situation, it’s now LeBron James and his Miami Heat in town.

While the focus might be on the Super Bowl, including LeBron’s, considering he complained about the team flying during the game without satellite TV, all eyes at the Republic will be fixated on this 2 p.m. tip-off (on TSN).

The Miami Heat are, of course, a very good basketball team. Probably the best in the NBA, depending on your feelings about some Western Conference contenders. And as I outlined in this pre-game from the Jan. 23 contest, they’re a tough match-up for the Raptors, especially on the wings.

Enter Rudy Gay, who immediately steps in as the team’s best wing defender. I have more on this aspect of his game coming in an article this week, but Gay has an unfair reputation as a poor defender from early in his career. With Memphis, he was the “stay at home” type defender, guarding the best wing player and allowing Tony Allen to freelance as more of an off-ball defender, since there’s nobody better at that. Gay is not all-world, but he’s not a sieve. This is just one game, but watching Gay try his hand at James will be interesting.

Last time out, the Raptors hung tough with the Heat, forcing overtime and eventually running out of gas to lose 123-116. The Raptors had seven players hit double figures in that game but somehow got pounded on the glass, getting doubled up by the rebounding-inept Heat. Dwyane Wade also had 35 points with seven dimes, while the King had a triple double with 31-10-11. So, yeah, even with Gay it’s tough sledding on the wings.

For a bit more detail, let’s head to the…

Tale of the Tape
O-Rating: Miami 111.1 (2nd), Toronto 106.5 (11th)
D-Rating: Miami 105.0 (11th), Toronto 108.1 (26th)
Pace: Miami 90.9 (22nd), Toronto 90.1 (25th)
Strength: Miami Scoring (1st in eFG%), Toronto Ball Control (2nd – will this change without Calderon?)
Weakness: Miami O-Reg (28th), Toronto Fouling (30th)

Now, we could break down the positions, but we just did that a week and a half ago. Instead, let’s discuss a few potential key points to the game.

Will Andrea Bargnani Suit Up?
He practiced on Saturday and there’s “a chance” he plays on Sunday. If he plays, the goal is clear: get his trade value up. This is no longer a matter of opinion or RR hating on Bargnani or whatever else you want to conjure up. Colangelo has said, flat out, he’s looking to deal Bargnani, and anything productive on the court helps that goal. There will be some who suggest he stay in the fold if he starts playing well, but the team’s salary structure is such that keeping Bargnani is not only a bad idea in basketball terms but also in financial terms. Regardless, Bargs isn’t confirmed and if he does play, it would likely be in a somewhat limited role, hopefully off the bench. In the long-term, it’s about improving the trade value but in the short-term, the team could actually use the front-court addition.

What Will Jonas Valanciunas Provide?
Jonas looked bad in his return on Friday, but that’s to be expected. If he plays as poorly today, he’s unlikely to see big minutes because of the next point below. If he plays well, he’s a tough check for the Heat bigs given his motor and ability to roll with his hands up every single time. There’s no rush for The Lethaluanian to get back to looking like a stud, but his playing well would be nice to help evaluate the “new core.”

Will the Teams Match Small?
Because of their size and talent at the wing, the Heat tend to go “small” a lot with Shane Battier or James playing the four. The Raptors are even better equipped to match this now with Gay in the fold, who can bump to the power forward spot and stay with James when Amir Johnson is off the floor. The Raptors’ strength is now their speed and athleticism on the wings, and while the Heat are talented in those positions, they’re not exactly young and agile. It’s likely the Raptors wait for the Heat to go small and then match, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Dwane Casey try to dictate the match-ups right out of the gate.

White Vegas
LeBron took in the Leafs game last night, and Sunday morning games in Toronto have been known to cause a “White Vegas” effect on the opposing teams. However, there have been prior instances where I’ve been tipped off to opposing players at certain establishments on Saturday only for it to show no manifestation on Sunday. But James has admitted his mind is on the Super Bowl, so maybe the Raptors can catch him looking too far ahead.

The Picks
Vegas: Heat -4.5
Hollinger: Heat -4.5
Blake: Heat -6

What would a welcome to Toronto be without Gay experiencing a heart-breaking loss? I expect the team to come out and play well but ultimately fall short based on the talent gap. Friday was great, but this IS the Miami Heat, after all.

Enjoy the game and enjoy the Super Bowl.

  • terrencethepterodactyl

    just curious, where/when did Colangelo confirm that he is going to deal bargnani?

    • BlakeMurphy

      To NBA TV after the game on Wednesday and then again on TSN radio on Thursday I believe. Not that he is “going to” but that Bargs and his agent hare aware he’s being shopped.

    • BCBargnaniFieldsCaseyGots2Go!

      BC didn’t commit to trading AB he said the team would look at anything that improves it post Gay- talking out of the side of his neck like the enigma of enigmas presser when I thought AB was gone then.

      BC is most likely going to slide AB back in as the starting PF to see how he plays with these guys (Gay, DD, Lowry) the rest of the season.

  • SteveB

    So, Bargnani is expected to look good in his return but for Jonas was expected to look bad!? And it was okay?Double standard? Hypocrisy? I listened and read Colangelo’s interviews. He  has never said, “flat out, he’s looking to deal Bargnani”. I admit, maybe I missed. Would be kindly appreciated if you could provide a link to that interview.  The one he said flat out…

    • Tross31
      • SteveB

        Thanks for the link.But,
        Colangelo said: “That’s not to say that we are absolutely going to trade Andrea. It’s not to say he’s asked for a trade.” And further, ” I’m not saying anything with any concrete nature that he’s going to be traded but we’re looking to make our basketball team better and I’ve pretty much told everybody: nobody on our team is untradeable based on some of the things we are looking to do and what our objectives are.” In my world this is not:”… said, flat out, he’s looking to deal Bargnani”.

        • cdub

          The reality is they are under no pressure to trade Bargnani right now.  There is no rush.  You always have the amnesty clause still as well.  So unless something presents itself that makes sense, I would not be surprised if he was not traded.  What I am interested in seeing is with Andrea coming off the bench, how short a leash he will be on when it comes to his liabilities?  This is something Casey never managed at all before despite his comments on earning minutes, but now the situation has changed and the days of coddling Andrea are clearly over. Can he be a useful addition off the bench?  Defiantely adds scoring to the bench which is always nice to have.

          • BCBargnaniFieldsCaseyGots2Go!

            AB will be coddled by BC until he leaves the TDot- believe that.

            AB has his own personal GM in Gheradini- recognize game.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Didn’t say that…not hypocrisy at all. I said it’d be nice for Bargs to be good to up his value, not that it was a requirement or even respected. Read the goddam article before commenting.

  • onemanweave

    Tw’o points re: AB’s return.  First,  he is going head to head with Gray for third-big minutes. Some time ago, that would have been laughable, even to Bargs-haters.  Lately Gray has been contributing. He has relaxed. He converts rather than fumbles easy chances. Basketball is so much about self-confidence and he finally  has some. His bull-in-a-china-shop style is instrumental  in the path to the Rap’s hoop no longer being the yellow brick road.
       That isn’t to say Andrea must copy Gray’s playing style. Apples and oranges.  However, can he supply enough scoring, man-to-man defence, the ocassional pass out of a double team and correct defensive rotation to supplement AG on occasion. Will Gray relax and continue his improved play and/or will AB suddenly awaken  and realize there are four other Raptors on the court with him?  Manol-a-mano, may the best man win.
    Point two — I’ve made it before. It is not heart that Bargnani lacks as much as lungs. He cannot play effectively for long periods of time.  That is  why he eventually winds up standing around with a thousand-mile stare and jacking up ineffective jumpers when his legs are gone. He can be effective in short bursts. Use him that way. It may fool some teams into thinking he can do it for longer stretches and trading for him. History says he can’t.

  • 511

    I couldn’t quite decide if Colangelo was ‘flat out’ saying he was looking to deal Bargnani or if he was intentionally leaving enough wiggle room to go either way. I was leaning towards ‘either way’. 

    While the various ways of saying ‘get-him-traded-and-quick’ has become a mantra that so many who post about the Raps regurgitate to each other, isn’t anyone (I wonder) curious about what Bargnani might bring off the bench, or to the floor in general, with the new higher-level player he’d now be playing with? Gotta admit, I’m curious.  

    If he’d been with another team for these years having the exact same career up to now, and we suddenly ended up with him on our roster, would anyone be curious, then, about what we might have with him? I’d guess some (‘trade-him-now’ advocates) would be. 

    He’s had a lot of time to think and process (for whatever that might be worth) and … we know something about the talent that’s buried somewhere in there. Maybe, with him not being ‘the man’, like for REAL this time (with RG here), it could be a whole new ballgame for him. And the team. I’m curious enough to watch for a few games with the door held open a crack. 

    • 511

      Ya, gotta amend this. ‘Couldn’t quite decide’ isn’t all the way true. After everything Colangelo’s gone through with this, it wouldn’t make sense (to me) that everything is already decided … without having another look to see what might happen. Even Smitch said in yesterday’s NBA Game Time (I think it’s called) something about ‘if Bargnani decides he wants to be a part of this team, it could be interesting’ (not a quote). 

  • JHP

    I don’t see AB or JV getting extended minutes.  In JV’s case it’s a little troubling and confusing.  The young man had a broken finger, surgery was not required and yet it took 6 weeks to heal.  And when he finally got back he looks terrible.  You would think they would have had him conditioning and practicing until he was blue in the face.  Time will tell if this latest setback is just a blimp or a sign of things to come. In AB’s case conditioning (or lack of) is never in question and he will be eased back to increase trade value and reduce chance of injury.  With Linas and Prietus basically not available there may actually be a role for AB but the need to (try !!) replace some of Jose’s contributions will probably force their hand.  

    • CJT

      JV has been active and has not had any issues with his cardio, so I’m not quite sure what you are trying to say.  He took only one shot today if I remember correctly and made it.  He battled with bosh, andersen and haslem and got a couple rebounds after being out for almost two months.  I think you need to get your expectations in check a bit.  He barely got on the court today.

  • Max

    Have any of you actually played post? Big Jonas’ physical d on Griffin was a pleasure to watch, and his missed shots really did not affect the plus minus of the score. And yes, sometimes finger injuries are very crippling, one simply can not catch the ball without white hot pain… think about it.

    • Maniacal

      kinda gotta agree… Jonas isn’t here as a scoring option… he’s here to rebound and play defence… didn’t do much rebounding in the game, but he sure seemed to make life miserable for Griffin..

    • onemanweave

      Thought the same thing. The kid was moving his feeet and staying in front of one of the more mobile bigs in the leaague. His offensive skills were rusty, as expected. His defence was exceptional, one of the factors in taking Griffin out of the game.

      • JHP

        I don’t know a lot about basketball so I’m leaning a bit on the responses.  So they used a first round pick and stashed him in Europe for a year for a player that can rebound and play defense. Sounds like a lot but you know it’s the Raptors.  When didn’t they just resign Reggie?

        • onemanweave

          Younger than Reggie. Taller. Lot more offensive upside. Maybe not quite the rebounder but few are. Should wind up as a starter on a good team. Maybe better. Reggie never had that kind of potential and certainly doesn’t have it now.

    • BlakeMurphy

      No, I haven’t played post, I”m 5’10”. But I’ve watched a tonne of basketball, so what’s your point? I think I was pretty clear that some rust is completely acceptable, and if you had read the post-game as well I highlighted Jonas’ return in more specific terms. His defense was fine but he was also foul-happy, and those points count as much as any other. He had a good +/-, yes, but in a single-game it’s impossible to strip that from team performance, especially given the huge margin of victory.

      Anyway, all of this is to say….your point about playing post is stupid, and I wasn’t even critical of him really.

      • FAQ

        … you mean you’re a La-Z-Boy playa …??!!!!

        • BlakeMurphy

          Not really sure what that means…I’m just too small to play the post. Also, I hate the argument that a couple years of playing high school ball somehow outweighs years of watching tonnes of basketball. At some point, excess viewing outweighs playing.

      • CJT

        You have been a bit chippy with the responses lately.  I don’t remember you being so sensitive in the past.  This all seemed to stem from the presser when the Raps wouldn’t give you a seat.  They may not value you as a member of the media, but don’t worry Blake, I always enjoy your write ups, even if they have some points I don’t agree with.

        • Blake Murphy

          This would be fair but I live in Vancouver haha, that tweet was just kind of a running joke. I get snippy when people latch on to small details and make huge deals of it. I go in cycles, I’m sure ill calm down soon.

          And thanks man, appreciate the kind words.

          • CJT

            Sorry, it was someone else from the RR that mentioned bloggers were not allowed to be part of the presser.  The board gets pretty negative at times and it must be hard to try and put stuff out there, but keep your head up and do your thing.  Most are not trying to nitpick, some do. 

    • gradgrind101

      “Have any of you actually played post?”…

      That question is cracked and it’s an insult which you are not qualified to make.

      I have played post. I have played with and coached 4’s and 5’s who went on to play D1. The organization I am associated with has produced 4/5’s who are now in the NBA (although I had nothing to with those players). I have been around elite level talented bigs for years. That said, I have no idea what it’s like to go against players like Griffin in a meaningful way and neither do you.

      Max, I don’t know who you are and I don’t mean to disrespect your knowledge or your love for the sport. JV has has shown stretches of adequacy and a few games where he played well. But overall he is a good 2-3 years away from being a substantial contributor. He’s got to earn his minutes and right now he is behind AJ, AG and AB. 

      JV only played 13 minutes on Friday and he was a little lost. He wasn’t that effective against Griffin. He fouled him 3 times and lost him a few more times (which turned out to be fouls on defensive rotations) and allowed a dunk (he was lost on the play). So I disagree he didn’t play Griffin well at all. He was out of his element. He didn’t even have a single stop on Griffin (except maybe once when BG passed out of Jonas coverage just outside of the paint). He has a long way to go and will probably see decreased minutes during the next few weeks where the raptors are going to push for the playoffs.

      • onemanweave

        No disrespect. You seem to have a lot of basketball experience. Just see things different regarding JV’s contribution.  I doubt there is a player in the league who won’t foul and/or lose Blake Griffin on occasion. JV has been out a while and is a rookie and he certainly looked lost offensively.  I’m still impressed with his quickness for a seven-footer.
           He is definitely behind AJ, who is playing very good basketball. Gray has a solid three or four games behind him. Hope he can continue his streak of good play but its hardly carved in stone. AB has a nasty habit of chucking and stopping the ball, which the kid doesn’t and is every bit as lost on rotations after years, not weeks, in the league.
           Jonas will certainly continue to grow and improve for years but may contribute a lot sooner. Again, no disrepect for you or your credentials but I disagree with your evaluastion.

        • gradgrind101

          Hey Max. No offense taken. I should have been clear  but I was referring to your statement “Big Jonas’ physical d on Griffin was a pleasure to watch”. I would say the effort and commitment was a pleasure to watch.

  • FAQ

    EAT.. BEAT.. DEFEAT da HEAT…. RAAAAAAATPORS…!!!!

  • JAC23

    Hey Zarar, Rudy has 20 at the half. Still regret giving up Ed “Boss” Davis?

  • JAC23

    And a last second block on LeBron.

  • Destro

    Interior D is fuckn atrocious….Heat are getting anything they want inside….

    • CJT

      It was really bad.  You could see the plays unfolding over and over with high screen and roll with Bosh, who continually cut to the rim for uncontested lay ups.

  • Phat AlberG

    Dwane Casey has to be in relationship with Alan Anderson because I don’t understand why he’s plays so much minutes.  

    • BlakeMurphy

      “Hey Coach…your momma.” – Terrence Ross, apparently.

  • tyson

    Im missing jose’s assists and shot making ability. Didnt lowry and lucas have like 2 assists combined the whole game? *sigh*

  • jacobdrichards4

    Nobody has really good assist games all the time, even the beloved Calderon had off games cant overreact after one game.