Toronto Raptors (42-29) @ Miami Heat (35-36): Preview

The Toronto Raptors travel to the American Airlines Arena to play the Miami Heat for the second time in 12 days.

The Toronto Raptors are making a second trip to Miami in 12 days to play the Heat. Toronto is hoping the second trip goes better than their last game in Miami. On March 11, the Heat defeated the Raptors 104-89.

Toronto has won three straight games and was finally able to beat the Chicago Bulls after 11 straight losses. The Raptors beat Chicago 122-120 in overtime behind DeMar DeRozan’s 42 points. However, power forward Serge Ibaka was suspended on Wednesday, after getting in a fight with Robin Lopez.

The Raps enter Wednesday night’s NBA schedule a half game back of the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards host Atlanta Hawks, if the Wizards lose and Toronto defeats the Heat they will move into third place. Finishing third would be beneficial to the Dinos, who would avoid a second round series with Cleveland. A third place finish would also set up a physical series with the rival Boston Celtics.

The Heat have turned their season around

The Miami Heat’s 35-36 record many seem mediocre,  but Head Coach Erik Spoelstra deserves Coach of the Year consideration for turning around the Heat’s season. The Heat concluded 2016 with a 10-24 record. Since the start of 2017, the Heat have gone 25-12.

Mar 11, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra stands in front of his players during a timeout in the second half against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 104-89. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Miami will be without one of the NBA’s hottest players, Dion Waiters. Waiters injured his ankle on March 17 and could be out for the rest of the season. The Heat could also be without center Hassan Whiteside, who left Miami’s last game with a hand injury.

If Miami is without their second and third leading scorers, they will have to depend on guards Goran Dragic and Tyler Johnson. Dragic is averaging 20.2 points per game this season while Johnson adds 13.8.

James Johnson will have another chance for revenge against the Raptors, his former team. After finally getting in shape and dropping 30lbs, Johnson is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and 3-point percentage.

Date: Thursday, March 23
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Location: Miami, Florida
Venue: American Airlines Arena
TV and Radio Info: Sportsnet One – Sportsnet Radio
Live Stream: Sportsnet Now

Four Keys to Victory

  1. Do not let Dragic beat you. The Miami offense is going to run through Dragic, who will need the Slovenian guard to generate his own offense. The Raptors’ trio of point guards needs to keep Dragic from getting to the basket.
  2. Dominate the glass. If Whiteside does not play the Heat do not have another healthy player averaging more than five boards per game. Assuming Whiteside is out the Raptors need to crash the boards and create second chance points. However, if Whiteside does play the Raptors need to be physical with him and box him out.
  3. Secondary options need to step up. The Raptors need to reduce DeRozan’s workload. In Tuesday’s win over the Bulls, the USC product played 42 points in 43 minutes. Toronto needs offensive from a secondary option to reduce DeRozan’s need to score. If the Raptors can find someone else to score, they can save some of DeRozan’s minutes for the playoffs.
  4. Patrick Patterson needs to find his game. With Ibaka suspended, Patterson must deliver offensively. Patterson has been a plus defensive player since arriving in Toronto, but he is shooting a career-low 39 percent from the field this season. If Patterson does not deliver offensively, Dwane Casey should consider a smaller lineup with DeMarre Carroll at power forward.

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