The Toronto Raptors travel to the Sunshine State for back-to-back games at Miami and Orlando. The HEAT, the reigning NBA champs,
is playing like a title contender again, which is hardly a surprise when you peruse their roster. Ray Allen, who has a strong argument for being the best shooter from distance in basketball history, doesn’t start for this insanely stacked veteran squad. He left Boston to join Miami in the off-season, pushed away because of personality differences (the Celtics’ stars, Rajan Rondo and Kevin Garnett, are notoriously difficult people to get along with) but also pulled to South Beach for the chance at a championship. Ray gets nightly views of Chris Bosh (whoever he is), Dwayne Wade, and a force of nature named LeBron James. Wade is showing signs of age; he’s played a lot of minutes in his marvellous 9-year career, and it’s surprising to see his coach, Erik Spoelstra, keeping him out there for 33+ MPG. LeBron, who no longer needs a last name, is enjoying another phenomenal season, averaging 26 points, 8 boards, and 7 assists. He’s bidding fair to add another MVP trophy to his already overstuffed display case. Glue guy Shane Battier is experiencing a shooting slump, having no baskets in his last 3 games. My guess is he will find his range against the Raps. I’ve always liked Mario Chalmers, who doesn’t seem to have a problem playing in the shadow of mega-stars. Mike Miller, a veteran 3-point shooter, is having a down season, but can get hot at any time.
The HEAT are most unfriendly to visitors, having been defeated only 3 times in 19 home games this season. They are returning to the court following a six game road trip and five days of rest. Could they be a little rusty? The Raps can win this game by hanging around. The partisan Miami crowd will energize their team if the Raps allow them to go on a run. We’ll need big games from Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, as the HEAT’s interior defense is suspect. The signing of Chris (Birdman) Anderson this week is clear proof they realize they have a problem. DeMar DeRozan has been quiet recently. This game may not be his return to prominence, particularly if LeBron is covering him. Our point guards should be able to find some room, so don’t be surprised if Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry pile up the points.
I don’t know how to stop LeBron; I doubt anyone does. Making his points as
difficult as possible may be the best we can do. Miami has outscored its opponents by 5.4 PPG this season, which is a huge margin. The Raps can win this game, but like the Lakers’ win, it will take balanced scoring and patience. Let’s call the upset: Raps 99 – HEAT 97.
Brian Boake is a staff writer for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.