One day removed from Allonzo Trier, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Noah Vonleh sharing the stage that we know the Washington Wizards deserved, the Raptors square-up with the Heat in Miami. Still the league’s top-dog in the standings, the Raptors face a potential first-round matchup in the 16-16 Heat.
After a fairly hefty stroke of bad luck with the injury bug, the Raptors look to be on the mend. After Kyle Lowry’s uneventful return to the line-up against the 76ers, Serge Ibaka steps back into the fray. The Raptors, who have lost Jonas Valanciunas to what will be at least a month of injury time, are thankful to feature the fringe All-star (Ibaka) in the line-up once again.
The Heat feature one of the more polarizing big-men in the league, and one of the more exciting young bigs, simultaneously. Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo combine for an imposing 1-2 punch, especially when you consider the Raptors lost an integral piece of their own front-court (Valanciunas). Even though Whiteside’s past year and a half of basketball has been coloured by what some consider an ineffectual predisposition, he’s been in great form as of late and the Heat are flexing a 5-game winning streak coming into this game.
Even though Adebayo is generally far more explosive when he takes the tip, he still presents a problem for the Raptors bench bigs. Greg Monroe isn’t a likely option to contain Adebayo’s explosive rim-running and staggering Pascal Siakam might leave him in a position to be bullied under the rim. Even with the Kawhi Leonard’s return likely helping on the defensive glass, the Raptors have their work cut out for them.
One of the more underrated wing players league-wide, Josh Richardson, should be a decent option to hound Leonard on the defensive end. Although, with Goran Dragic out of the line-up, the Heat are fairly short on creators in their line-up. The Raptors have been particularly susceptible to creative pick n’ roll ball handlers, and luckily, Dwyane Wade looks to be the only player of that sort on the Heat.
There won’t ever be a regular season substitute for playing on Christmas, but the Raptors find themselves facing a particularly good matchup the day after. The extra day could only be treated as more rest for the Raptors players. With Leonard reportedly playing both legs of back-to-backs in the new year, an extra day here and there will mean a lot. Not to mention a Christmas morning with children, or in Siakam’s case, with his pal Jakob Poeltl.
TV: Sportsnet One | Radio: TheFan590 | Tipoff: 7:30 EST
Jonas Valanciunas (thumb) is still in a cast and won’t return until mid-january at the very least.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Lorenzo Brown
SG: Danny Green, Delon Wright, Norman Powell, Malachi Richardson
SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, CJ Miles
PF: Pascal Siakam
C: Serge Ibaka, Greg Monroe, Chris Boucher
Goran Dragic (knee) is out for the foreseeable future. Dion Waiters (foot) won’t play today.
PG: Tyler Johnson, Dwyane Wade
SG: Josh Richardson, Dwyane Wade, Wayne Ellington
SF: Rodney McGruder, Justice Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr.
PF: James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Yante Maten
C: Hassan Whiteside, Bam Adebayo, Udonis Haslem
Hopefully another step towards Lowry and Leonard coalescing on offense while the young role-players keep up their progression. A belated holiday gift for us all.
Have a blessed day.