Heat without 4 starters, 6 or 7 players against Raptors on Friday

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Chris Bosh will return to the Air Canada Centre once again on Friday for an 8 p.m. tip-off against the Toronto Raptors. He will return alone.

The Miami Heat will be without their other four starters, as Dwyane Wade (shoulder), Luol Deng (eye), Goran Dragic (calf), and Hassan Whiteside (hip) will all sit, per Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun. That means it’s Bosh and a crew of bench players, and even some of those bench pieces may be sidelined – Josh McRoberts (knee) and Chris Andersen (knee) are out, and Beno Udrih (neck) is questionable and unlikely to play.

That leaves the Heat with a rotation that will look something like this:

PG:  Tyler Johnson, (Udrih)
SG: Gerald Green, Josh Richardson
SF: Justise Winslow
PF: Bosh, Jarnell Stokes
C: Amar’e Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem

Look, we could analyze this, but it would be pretty pointless. The Heat are going to have nine, maybe as few as seven, healthy players, barring a last-minute injury exception, and most of those players are young and unproven or old and past their prime. The Heat have a few five-man units from this group that have a bit of experience together, but almost all of those involve Green, who has been dealing with a knee issue of his own (though he’s playing). For the most part, it’s a whole new world for Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra on Friday.

This doesn’t mean the Raptors can take the Heat lightly. They still have Bosh, Johnson gave the Raptors trouble before, Winslow is a great defender, and Stokes is an issue on the glass. And Bosh is Bosh, a deserving All-Star and the team’s best and most consistent player. In 309 minutes that Bosh has played and the other four starters have sat, the Heat have been outscored by 2.1 points per-100 possessions, hardly a great mark but also hardly a sign that the Raptors are entering a cake-walk.

The Raptors, meanwhile, are without DeMarre Carroll and assigned three players to the D-League on Friday. James Johnson was in a walking boot Thursday but indications are that he’s fine. So the rotation will look something like this:

PG: Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Delon Wright
SG: DeMar DeRozan, T.J. Ross
SF: Johnson
PF: Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Anthony Bennett
C: Jonas Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo

The Raptors are 9.5-point favorites and I’d expect that line to nudge to 10.5 by game time, if not higher. This really, really should be a win, the type in which the Raptors can play Lowry and DeRozan fewer than their customary 37 minutes, but no game can ever be taken as such.

The Raptors, by the way, can match the second-longest winning streak in franchise history with a win Friday. They enter play having won six straight, one off their longest stretch since 2001-02, when they won nine in a row without Vince Carter late in the season to help secure a playoff spot. The standard pre-game notes post will come later (6:30-ish), providing any updates and other general notes from the day.

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