Gameday: Heat @ Raptors, Apr. 7

What a mixed bag this game will be. Early Sunday games are always fantastic (drinking coffee in the morning and watching a live game feels terrific), we get to see one of Dwyane Wade’s last games ever, but the Raptors have to play one of their last games this season against a team with very notable goons and a penchant for playing grimy ball. Health is the most important thing, and the Heat play basketball that is diametrically opposed to their opponents health.

Before anyone starts, yes, Dwyane Wade is better than Paul Pierce.

The Raptors will definitely be the second seed in the Eastern Conference at season’s end, and they’ll likely have home-court advantage in the Finals were they to make it there. Their first round matchup is completely up in the air, though. No one can really say how that might play out either, but here’s the numbers:

A lot is up in the air and the Raptors have a small role to play in it. Should we be worried about who the Raptors play in the first round? Yes and no, I mean, I’d like to watch the Raptors play the Nets because those sound like fun games to me. Is there a team that could end up 7th that will make me consider a first round upset? No. If we’re really going to entertain the Raptors as potential NBA Finalists, then there can’t really be any anxiety about who the first round matchup will be.

This afternoon’s game will likely play out similar to the game these two teams played on March 10th, the Raptors starters will probably be dominant, and the Heat will likely get a good chunk of their points from their bench. That formula seems pretty familiar, considering we’ve seen it the past handful of games from the Raptors. At this point I’m sure everyone reading this, and myself included, is very ready for playoff basketball.

This is the first iteration of the Raptors that has ever been heralded as likely to be the best version of itself in the playoffs, so this game seems like a bother, honestly. For the Heat, it’s imperative that they come away with the victory.

The Heat will shrink their rotation to 9-men and go to war in this one. It should be pretty plain to gauge how important this game is to the Raptors based on how Nurse rolls out the rotations. If the Raptors are extremely invested in this game and want to see the Heat on the outside looking in when the playoffs come around, expect to see an extremely short leash for Jeremy Lin/Norman Powell/OG Anunoby. Maybe only second quarter minutes, maybe none at all. If we see 4 or 5 man bench lineups, it’ll be easy to suggest that this game is of very little importance to the Raptors plans.

Last time these two teams played, Serge Ibaka got the start at center in a game the Raptors won handily. If Marc Gasol gets the start in this one that likely means that the idea that the center position is fluid is probably not relevant anymore. There’s not much else to takeaway from this game besides the massive implications it has for the Nets, Magic, Hornets and Heat. Which, I can’t really make any predictions on because there’s way too many moving parts.

Cold-Ish Take

Goran Dragic will elbow someone in the face today. Heat or Raptor player? I’m not sure, but his elbows are furious.

Game Info

TV: TSN | Radio: TSN1050 | Tipoff: 12pm EST – The Raptors are a 7.5 point favorite – sports betting explained.

Raptors Updates

Patrick McCaw (thumb) is out.

PG: Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Loyd

SG: Danny Green, Norman Powell, Jodie Meeks

SF: Kawhi Leonard, OG Anunoby, Malcolm Miller

PF: Pascal Siakam

C: Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Chris Boucher

Heat Updates

Josh Richardson (Groin) is out.

PG: Goran Dragic, Dwyane Wade???/Justise Winslow???

SG: Dion Waiters, Dwyane Wade

SF: Justise Winslow, Derrick Jones Jr., Rodney McGruder

PF: Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson

C: Bam Adebayo, Hassan Whiteside, Ryan Anderson, Udonis Haslem

“Now, I want a nice, clean game from all of you!” – Madam Hooch

Have a blessed day.

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