Preview: Miami HEAT [29-14] vs Toronto Raptors [17-30]

Feb 1 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) plays defense against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Miami 102-89. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami HEAT play their final game of a 4-city tour at the Air Canada Centre this afternoon. The HEAT were defeated in Indiana on Friday night, which dropped their record as visitors to 11-11. The Toronto Raptors, fresh off a pasting of the Los Angeles Clippers, and with Rudy Gay more integrated into the program, relish a chance to savor revenge. The Raps let an overtime victory slip away in Miami recently, a pattern all too familiar to its fans.

As Miami’s Big 3 go, so goes the team. LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh are perhaps the most famous trio playing for one team on the planet. LeBron is a physical package unlike anything hoops aficionados have ever seen, combining massive upper body strength and size with a sprinter’s speed. He is genuinely happy as an offensive distributor, and ranks tenth in the league in assists per game with 7.0. He can score the ball a little too, standing fourth at 26.5. In short, he’s the real deal, and an odds-on favourite to take home MVP hardware once again. Wade is slowly down slightly, to the immense relief of every opposing team, but is still a force. He’s been a treat to watch throughout his wonderful career, and can shoot and slash seemingly at will. Bosh was the focus of the Raps offense during his seasons in Toronto, but is a complementary piece in Miami. At 17.1 PPG, he’s not exactly invisible, but seems content as the third option in the HEAT’s often unstoppable offense. He can still rebound and defend at a high level. Udonis Haslam gets the start at power forward. He’s the epitome of an NBA journeyman, an undersized plugger who will never have a play run for him, but will box out on the boards, tip lazy passes and generally do the grunt work every team needs done. Shane Battier, a smart veteran, will see lots of minutes. Don’t ignore him behind the arc. That statement will no doubt be written in CAPITALS on the whiteboard beside the name of Ray Allen, the 3-point master. Mike Miller can also provide Miami with instant offense from deep.

The Raps will start the same five as against the Clips, which means Rudy once again comes off the bench. I strongly expect he will see more minutes than Landry Fields, as this game may well become a shootout and Rudy’s points will be desperately needed. Jonas Valanciunas may be a factor in this game against the smaller HEAT. He is more mobile than Aaron Gray, who will be at pains to keep up to the pace of what should be a track meet. Let’s hope Kyle Lowry’s jump shot returns. He’s had one bucket in two of his last three games.

I think the Raps can win this one in regulation time by a 108-104 count.

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.

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