Gameday: Raptors vs Heat – Mar. 30/12

The Heat come into town for the 2nd night of a back-to-back; Raptors hope to draw season series even.

I’m actually ok with the 2.1% loss victory, the balls are going to bounce where they bounce, and in the meantime, seeing development in this team coming together down the stretch gives me the warm and fuzzies. I’m on board with tank nation, but only in the sense that I want these guys to play hard, and let the cards fall where they may.

I might be seeing something that isn’t there, but with the moves that were made in the last few weeks (trading Barbosa for a pick, releasing Carter and Butler, bringing in D-Leaguers) it seems like Colangelo has designs on tanking, but Casey and the players think otherwise. The win over the Nuggets capped a solid 10-day run that saw the Raptors in every game except for the Magic one, playing short-handed.

The Heat on the other hand are chugging along quite nicely, having just handed the Mavs a 21 point thumping at home. They came away limping, with Wade hurting his hand and LeBron coming into the game with a mangled finger (non-shooting hand), but it says a great deal about them that they were able to run a train on the defending champs; those uniforms are damn sweet, too.

Whatever, I’m expecting more of what we saw from the Magic game than the Nuggets one.

Surya Fernandez from Hot Hot Hoops stopped by and had a quick chat with me:

I’m really interested in getting your perspective on how Bosh is being utilized. During his time in Toronto, he put up great numbers since he got to play his game, but he seems to not be utilized in an optimal manner in Spoelstra’s system. How much of this has to do with being the 3rd fiddle, and how much of it has to do with the coaching staff just not getting him the ball in his spots?
I think it’s both factors. The reality is that Bosh is the Heat’s third option on offense (and what a luxury that is) and there is a clear preference to defer to Wade and LeBron. That doesn’t mean the Heat coaching staff or Bosh himself is off the hook. We’ve seen Bosh play his best games when Wade is out because of injury and he can capably lead the offense alongside the second unit while the other two rest on the bench.

However, there is still the feeling the coaching staff still hasn’t figured out how to get the most out of Bosh yet and it’s frustrating when he disappears for long stretches of the game or is held to single-digit rebounding. I still think he’s too thin in spite of the fact he’s bulked up a bit more in his second season in Miami and I would prefer to see him at the weight he was at when he was in Toronto. Perhaps with a bit more bulk he’d be a greater presence inside and be in better position to create his own offense instead of competing with Wade and LeBron for shots out in the perimeter. The Heat don’t need him for three-pointers.

The Spurs have done a masterful job of winning games (5 wins in 6 nights) while resting their veterans. Why haven’t LeBron, and to a lesser extent Wade, been given some time off to get ready for the playoffs?
Spoelstra has been clearly reluctant to do that, even during this shortened season, and for all we know LeBron and Wade may have been presented with the option to rest and it wouldn’t surprise me if they declined to take the Heat up on that offer. Given by how poor their play has been lately on the road, it might not be a bad idea to try and secure home court advantage against as many potential playoff opponents as possible. They’re only 3.5 games behind the #1 seeded Bulls and play them two more times this season so there is still an opportunity to catch up to them.

As good as the Heat are most nights, there’s still a feeling that the rotation is a work in progress given that newcomer Ronny Turiaf is already receiving substantial minutes off the bench and perpetually injured Mike Miller must share minutes with Shane Battier once he recovers. So while Spoelstra might want to continue to tinker with his rotation and prefer to keep playing all of his healthy players, it’s still a possibility that he gives his stars some rest before the playoffs start if the Heat are locked into the #2 seed with several games left in the regular season.

Fact or Fiction: LeBron should be MVP?
A solid final month of play and it’s his for the taking. No other player has been clearly (or consistently) better than LeBron for the season and he’s won plenty of praise for his defensive work as well as incorporating a true post-up game to his offensive arsenal. Something tells me he’d rather win Finals MVP though.

Two part question: 1) Do the Heat win the championship this season? 2) If they don’t win, does Riley move one or more of LeBron, Wade or Bosh?
I can’t predict the future but only the Bulls stand in the way of another Finals appearance and it remains to be seen which Western Conference team is heads and shoulders above the rest and could beat the Heat four times out of seven. Quite frankly, the Heat’s biggest threat is not playing up to their own true potential. If they get hot in the playoffs and can take advantage of the depth they have this year, it’s going to be tough to beat them.

Finish this thought: for the Raptors to win this game, they must…?
….continue to stay active and swing the ball around on offense until they get a good look at the rim while limiting their turnovers because that’s an automatic basket for the Heat out on the open floor. Playing zone and/or clogging the paint and daring the Heat to shoot from outside may give the Raptors a chance to slow them down on offense as well. The Raptors must win 50-50 balls, grab offensive rebounds, take charges and execute other so-called “hustle” plays in order to keep up with the Heat as well.

Keys to the Game

  • Tight defense rotations mixed in with some zone. While the Heat don’t have much of an offense, they do have three guys that you can throw the ball too who can go ISO and cause lots of trouble. Playing tight doesn’t mean the Raptors need to get up on them on the perimeter; I’m more than happy losing this one on the backs of solid Heat perimeter shooting, than the Miami Thrice getting into the paint and doing whatever they want.
  • Offensive glass; LeBron and Wade in the open court are utterly devastating, but fast break opportunities can be limited if the Raptors crash the boards, and slow this bad boy down. I’d like to see the pace come down, and the Raptors to force the Heat into half-court sets where they are vulnerable to put up sketchy shots; here’s hoping LeBron decides to put up five-treys tonight.
  • The Heat are still suspect in the front-court, even with the recent addition of Ronny Turiaf. Between Bargnani, Davis, Amir and Gray, the Raptors have the horses to hurt the Heat, and possibly get some folks into foul trouble…it could happen.

The Line

The Heat are 10 point favourites, with an over/under of 193. While this is the second game of a back-to-back for the Heat, the big three played a combined 99 minutes; they will be rested. Including tonight, 6 of the Heat’s next 8 games will be against playoff teams, so this is one they have to get. Unless Bargnani spurs the Raptors on with a 20/10 night, expect a bit of a bloodbath; Heat by 17.


Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images

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