Morning Coffee – Sun, Apr 12

Home-court is clinched and a 50-win target is openly being talked about. Also, Lou be clutch.

RECAP: Spirited but punchless Heat fall short to Raptors – Hot Hot Hoops

It took me a while to get to Hassan Whiteside, but watching him he was absolutely dominant in this one. He finished with 16 points, 18 rebounds (8 offensive), and 6 blocked shots while being the chief cause of Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas fouling out in only 10 minutes. The glaring blemish on his stat sheet though will be his Shaq-like 4-16 foul shooting (including missing his last eight). I’m more than willing to give Hassan a pass here though, as his right hand is still heavily wrapped from his laceration against Milwaukee. Prior to that injury, Hassan was a foul shooter in the high 50s percentage-wise and even had a serviceable midrange jumper. Now, however, he is simply unable to even take a face up jumper, yet his hook shots and put backs have still shown to be reliable enough to get Miami relief points. An offseason of healing and foul shooting practice are naturally in order, and I expect improvement on that end from Hassan.

Miami Heat Index – ESPN

As much as players from the D-League, like Henry Walker and Tyler Johnson and Whiteside, and from China, like Michael Beasley and, well, Whiteside, were interesting stories and provided pleasant surprises throughout the season, the talent discrepancy was just too much to overcome. Case in point, the backbreaking play from Saturday night’s loss to the Raptors. It was an isolation for sixth-man extraordinaire Lou Williams, who banged in a step-back 3-pointer to extend Toronto’s lead to 102-97 with 31 seconds left. Here’s how Raptors coach Dwane Casey described the play: “We knew they were going to put their best defender [Luol Deng] on DeMar [DeRozan], and then they put their second-best defender [Wade] on Kyle [Lowry]. So that left [Tyler] Johnson covering Lou. And no disrespect to the young man [Johnson], but Lou can score. So we had the right matchup in that situation.”

Game Rap: Raptors 107 Heat 104 | Toronto Raptors

By The Numbers 47 – Rebounds from both teams. With Hassan Whiteside hauling down 18 boards, the Raptors got a huge boost from guards DeRozan and Kyle Lowry who combined for 13 rebounds. Chuck Hayes also contributed seven boards off the bench in 15 minutes. 10 – Jonas Valanciunas fouled out of the game after just 10 minutes. 12 – Just 12 assists for Toronto in this one. Miami didn’t fare much better, recording 14 dimes in the game. 20 – Missed free throws from the Miami Heat. Whiteside was a dismal 4-for-16 as the Heat finished 24-for-44 from the line. 35 – Percent shooting from beyond the arc for Toronto, despite Lowry’s 0-for-8 night from three. Lowry’s conditioning looked good in the second night of a back-to-back, but it’s obvious he’ll need to shake off the rust of a nine-game layoff. 48 – Raptors victories, tying last year’s franchise record with two games remaining in the regular season.

Playoff Preview: Six Key Players for the Toronto Raptors

Who will step up when all the bright lights are on and the pressure is mounting? Let’s take a look at six players who have the potential to contribute for the Raptors in big ways. In formulating the list, we considered past history as a resume. Not all of the following players are stars or even starters. Many are bench guys with specific roles for the team. Sometimes, it’s how effectively those roles are executed that makes all the difference.

Toronto Raptors squeak past Miami Heat 107-104

Offense: B+ A very efficient collective outing by the Raps. The Dinos finished scored 100+ points on 42.2% shooting and in classic Raptors fashion pulverized their opponent from downtown (9-26). Williams outperformed the entire Miami bench and as a whole the Raptors scored 56 compared to the pedestrian 21 mustered by the Heat pine. Greivis Vasquez and Patrick Patterson both had productive outings and were instrumental in the victory.

Raptors Clinch Home Court, Beat Heat 107-104 – Raptors HQ

This one was always going to be tougher than the standings suggested (although with these Raptors, any game is tougher than the standings suggest, but I digress). On the second game of their Florida back to back, the Raptors had to find a way to overcome a Heat squad desperate to sneak into the playoffs. With Kyle Lowry only playing in his second game back from injury, and Amir Johnson still missing, the minutes allocation was bound to be challening for an undermanned squad. The Raptors were under the gun right from the opening tip, as Jonas Valanciunas picked up two fouls within a minute and a half (more on this later). On one hand, what the heck. On the other hand, more Large Professor Chuck Hayes minutes. Pros and cons, folks. The first half was pretty much a blitz between Greivis Vasquez, DeMar DeRozan, Lou Williams and Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic. Lou had 20 at half to lead the Raps to a tie game of 58-58, while Dragic had 12 for Miami.

Double Dribble: Second Round Raptors? – Article – TSN

With The Season Almost Over, Is There Confidence In The Raptors Having Enough To Make It Out of The First Round? Watson: The Raptors have the two best players on the floor, in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, regardless of whom they face. They may not be as good a team as they were in the beginning of the season, but they are a better team than they have been showing in the second half. The NBA playoffs are whole new season and they have enough experience, will and talent to get through the first round of competition. Strickland: Confidence is not a word one associates with the Raptors currently as they bear in on a potential playoff match-up with worst team in the NBA last season, the Milwaukee Bucks. While ankle injuries to both Amir Johnson and Terrence Ross don’t help Coach Casey’s rotations in the least, Toronto fans can be encouraged that their floor boss Kyle Lowry has returned and DeMar DeRozan is once again playing at an All-Star level.

Raptors rebound to dunk Heat, seal home court | Toronto Star

Still, the Heat had only themselves to blame after missing an astonishing 20 free throws. One came when Luol Deng split two foul shots while down three with 55.1 seconds left, setting up a Williams dagger of a three-pointer that put the Raptors ahead 102-97 with 31.2 seconds remaining. It was simply a matter of the Raptors exposing a mismatch. “We knew they were going to put probably their best defender on DeMar and (Luol) Deng did a good job of muscling him, getting into him, and then . . . their second-best defender, (Dwyane) Wade, at that time was guarding Kyle (Lowry),” said coach Dwane Casey. “Lou had (Tyler) Johnson on him — and no disrespect to the young man, but Lou can score so we had the right matchup in that situation.” The shot propelled Toronto to its 48th win of the season — matching last year’s franchise-best — and the magical 50 mark remains in play with two games left.

Loss to Toronto Raptors, effectively ends Miami Heat NBA playoff hopes – Sun Sentinel

On a wild night that saw Heat center Hassan Whiteside close with 16 points and 18 rebounds, but also shoot 4 of 16 from the foul line, on a night Dwyane Wade scored 30 points and Goran Dragic 22, the misery of late-season collapses continued. It is possible now that Wade, Dragic and  perhaps even Whiteside sit out the season’s final two games, losses to become more valued than wins. “Nobody should feel sorry for us,” Spoelstra said. “This is what you sign up for in this business.” Hope for season salvation came to an end in the closing minutes.

Heat lose to end playoff hope – Sun Sentinel

This is how fast it changes in sports, how quickly the good curdles to bad. Even the Heat became infected with a season that carried them out of the playoffs. They were probably due. They won two titles in making four straight NBA Finals. Still, when you talk about pride and pedigree with the Heat, let’s not overdo it. Down the stretch, they negated some great efforts by blowing fourth-quarter leads of 16 points against Milwaukee and 15 points against Detroit. They then threw back a 19-point halftime lead against Chicago on Thursday. Win any of those games and it’s a different season. Win them all, and they’re moving comfortably into a seventh consecutive post-season. You know how many playoffs the other three pro teams combined for in this period starting in 2009?

Toronto Raptors secure home-court advantage for first round of playoffs with win over Miami Heat | National Post

The teams were tied at 58 at the break, with Williams doing what he does as well as just about anyone — coming off the bench and giving the Raptors a spark. Toronto had 31 points in the second quarter, and Williams had 17 of them. He made five of six shots from the field and all five of his tries from the line in a span of just over 9 minutes. Whiteside and Wade did their part to keep Miami in it, combining for 15 in the quarter. Wade stayed hot in the third, scoring 11 more — highlighted by one stretch where he managed to get a rebound as he was stretched out on the court after a collision, and then a drive not long afterward where he got knocked down again.

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