The 14th away game of the year commences.
It’s not difficult to find a team that is underperforming in this young NBA season. Games have been postponed, players have contracted COVID-19, season ending injuries are always pervasive. I mean, the Eastern Conference’s NBA Finals representatives, the Miami Heat, are sitting at 5-7 on the season. They’re attempting to make the same climb to .500 that the Raptors are. Of course, their season has been marred by far more injury than the Raptors, but that’s the nature of the NBA.
For their part, the Raptors are coming off of what was probably their best performance of the season. The Mavericks were down 4 of their top 7 or 8 players, and the Raptors played a sound defensive scheme that isolated Luka Doncic within a wall of arms and attention. Wes Iwundu, Tyrell Terry, and Tim Hardaway Jr. weren’t able to make the Raptors pay. With a Heat roster that will be without Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley (Tyler Herro is questionable) they’re running low on shot-creation as well. Wins against these shorthanded teams might not move the needle on just how good we think these Raptors actually are, but they certainly count in the standings. There’s an opportunity here.
Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo are still very dangerous. There’s a very famous quote attributed to Samson Folk that states: “Dragic is a weasel, but he is a good at basketball weasel”.
Dragic is a weasel, but he is a good at basketball weasel
— Samson Folk (@samfolkk) August 3, 2020
There’s no doubt in my mind that Dragic will inject competent offense into the Heat with his pick n’ roll wizardry. There’s even a world where he puts both Pascal Siakam and Chris Boucher in foul trouble. With the Raptors opting for more switches in the defense this year though, it might be more realistic to expect Dragic kicking out to shooters consistently, rather than repeated wiggles to the bucket.
Erik Spoelstra is one of the very best in the NBA when it comes to jury rigging winning lineups. It’s no surprise when he can scheme up 50 combined points from Bam Adebayo and Dragic on 60-percent from the floor – with meaningful contributions from Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. They’ll flex their advantages at every opportunity, and the Raptors will have to be smart and diligent to stop them.
I never thought the Heat could get to the Finals last year. This team can sometimes sneak up on you through sheer brains and determination. They’ll work through the damn progressions until they get something they like.
I hope we get OG Anunoby on Adebayo again – fluidly switch across all the DHO actions – because that was a really fun matchup in the non-playoff bubble game they played.
It’s tough to say whether or not Adebayo will stick Siakam on defense, but I’d lean towards no. If the game is really close at the end, then probably. As it currently stands, the Heat will probably be happy to throw a rotating cast of Andre Iguodala, KZ Okpala, and Precious Achiuwa at Siakam. That way Adebayo can be more disruptive in help-side.
The Raptors guards, similar to last game, should have a major advantage here. Now, I’m not expecting Lowry to turn the clock back to 2015-16 like he did against the Mavericks, but there’s certainly room for improvement as far as VanVleet’s shot-making goes.
The transition offense came around in a big way last game as well. Hopefully that continues, because if it does we could start to see some bigger scoring nights from Anunoby and Norman Powell.
The Raptors should win this game.
Tipoff: 7:30pm EST | TV: Sportsnet | Radio: 590TheFan. Raptors are favored by 4 points, according to the NBA odds here.
Patrick McCaw is out.
PG: Kyle Lowry, Malachi Flynn
SG: Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Matt Thomas, Jalen Harris
SF: OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, DeAndre Bembry, Paul Watson
PF: Pascal Siakam, Yuta Watanabe
C: Aron Baynes, Chris Boucher
Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard and Avery Bradley did not travel with the team to Tampa (COVID protocol). Tyler Herro (neck) is questionable.
PG: Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn, Gabe Vincent
SG: Duncan Robinson, Max Strus
SF: KZ Okpala, Andre Iguodala
PF: Kelly Olynyk, Maurice Harkless, Chris Silva
C: Bam Adebayo: Precious Achiuwa, Udonis Haslem
Have a blessed day.