The Toronto Raptors will host the Miami Heat tonight for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. That still feels a little weird to say, but here we are. Both teams had shootaround Tuesday morning at the Air Canada Centre, and here are some assorted notes and quotes.
I’m not bothering to transcribe all of the quotes because I’m a bit tight, but a common theme from both teams was throwing a lot of different looks at each other. The Heat could use as many as five different defenders to keep DeMar DeRozan uncomfortable, the Raptors said they’ll use DeMarre Carroll in a variety of ways defensively, and with both teams having the wing depth (and size, when Toronto plays Patrick Patterson) to do so comfortably, each team could and maybe should switch a lot of action two-through-four. That could extend one-through-four for Miami if Josh Richardson sees time at the point and two-through-five for Toronto when Bismack Biyombo is on the floor without Hassan Whiteside.
It’s probably best to look at the rosters and for rotations in this series in terms of “point guard, wings, center” rather than the five traditional positions. There’s going to be a ton of cross-matching, switching, and experimenting across those positions.
A quick note on Terrence Ross
The assumption after the Indiana series was that Norman Powell had passed Terrence Ross in the rotation. That may be true, and head coach Dwane Casey paid lip service to Powell’s improved stroke, but he also spoke about how important the spacing Ross provides can be against a team that has rim protection like the Heat do.
“That’s a very important point,” Casey said. “We’ve gotta space the floor. if they’re gonna pack the paint with Whiteside and keep it in, we’ve gotta be able to stretch the floor with other guys and make sure our spacing is perfect. Terrence is one of the guys that can do it with his 3-point shooting. And now, Norm, with his 3-point shooting, can do the same thing.
“We’ve gotta get Terrence going, we’ve gotta get him involved offensively, and he’s gotta give it to us on the defensive end.”
Those are interesting comments and suggest that Casey’s going to stick with at least a nine-man rotation heading into those one. Ross is probably still a shade behind Powell, particularly if Powell can keep knocking down those looks.
I wrote about how Norman Powell turned his jump shot from a weakness into a weapon for Sportsnet, by the way.
The Wright Brothers
Raptors rookie point guard Delon Wright may not see the floor in the series, but he’s still a part of an interesting storyline. Older brother Dorell Wright signed with the Heat late in the year, and the Wright brothers will now become the first siblings to go head-to-head in the postseason since Jrue and Justin Holiday in last year’s opening round. It’s a matchup than seemed unlikely when Dorell signed in China for the season.
“Oh definitely. When he went over there, I was like, that might be our chance to ever play,” Delon said. “It was real exciting. I still didn’t think it was a chance because they were all tied, 3, 4, 5.”
Growing up as the younger brother of an NBA player had its priveledges, It’s likely why Delon was touted as a mature player after four years of Utah, one who was ready for life in the NBA. Dorell playing for the Heat initially made Delon a fan of the team, which meant a lot of watching Dwyane Wade…and some other benefits of having a brother in the NBA, too.
“Except for this series, I’m still a fan,” Delon said. “I love D-Wade, that’s my favorite player. He’s also helped me out, too, just, like, my brother’s on the phone with him, he’d put him on the phone when I was young.
The lessons continued when Dorell penned a terrific letter to Delon in The Players’ Tribune before the season. That the brothers won’t play much – Dorell stands a better chance in the unlikely event Miami needs a shooting spark – is disappointing, if only because it keeps everyone from getting to see the elder take his kid brother to the woodshed.
“Hopefully I get a flagrant one on him like I did when he was a kid,” Dorell said.
Biyombo gets foul upgraded
The NBA has assessed Bismack Biyombo a Flagrant 2 foul retroactively. The infraction came at the 11:18 mark of the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Game 7 against the Pacers, as Biyombo fought for a defensive rebound he’d ultimately lose. While a Flagrant 2 means Biyombo should have been ejected – he wasn’t even given a foul – there will be no other discipline for Biyombo.
The league also revealed in their last two minute report that DeMar DeRozan should have been assessed a foul in the game’s closing seconds for his push to the back of Ian Mahinmi.
Bosh will eventually be in Toronto
Chris Bosh remains unable to play after a second incidence of blood clots appeared at the All-Star break. The situation is a strange one, with Bosh allegedly pushing to be cleared to play but the Heat worried about his health. The former Raptor didn’t travel with the Heat but is expected to fly in with Heat owner Micky Arison for Game 1, according to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
For the purposes of this series, you can assume Bosh is out. And if you boo him, DM me your seat number so I can come punch you.
Raptors set viewership record
Sunday’s Game 7 was the most watched Raptors game in Canadian television history. Damn.
I also covered off some more angles from shootaround there, particularly with respect to how the Heat present a different challenge for Lowry and DeRozan.
Joe Johnson told me Game 7 in 2014 in Toronto was loudest building he’s been in. People here say Sunday was louder and expect louder tonight
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 3, 2016
Dwyane Wade: “We’re going to have our hands cut out for us.”
(this sounds terrifying)
— James Herbert (@outsidethenba) May 3, 2016
“It’s important to have a sense of urgency to protect home (court). It’s something we worked for all year.” – Casey pic.twitter.com/triq35zp00
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 3, 2016
Lowry lost job to Dragic in Houston. “There’s nothing but love and admiration from my end.”
— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) May 3, 2016