The Miami Heat visit Toronto’s Air Canada Centre for the second time this month. LeBron & Co. just defeated the Cavaliers in Cleveland for their eighth straight win. Miami averages nearly 106 PPG [Points Per Game] while surrendering barely 96, so they are full value for their 12-3 record. The Heat ranks third in the league in 3-point shooting percentage at 41.7%, and have 5 players averaging double figures in PPG.
To quote any more Miami stats would be too depressing, so let’s see if there are some positives we can find with the Toronto Raptors. Defying their losing record, the Raps average 1 more PPG than they surrender. DeMar DeRozan is shooting 40% from beyond the 3-point arc, by far his best number ever. Kyle Lowry has an assist to turnover ratio of 3.75, which isn’t great but is much superior to his pre-season games.`
Time to see if there’s a way to progress from cherry-picking stats to an upset victory for the Raps. The Heat can be beaten, if Toronto can:
- Force poor shots. One of Miami’s few statistical weaknesses is on the offensive boards, where they give up 4 more than they get. In b-ball parlance, they are one & done. Of course, when the ones who are taking the shots are all-time greats like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, there aren’t a lot of offensive boards to go after. Hence the need to make Miami’s outside shooters uncomfortable, which starts by not biting on ball fakes. Maybe they’ll miss – we live in hope, we’re Raps fans.
- Get Rudy Gay on the scoresheet early. When our most expensive player scores some Q1 baskets, he seems less inclined to dominate the ball, force silly shots or dribble into double teams. He could take some lessons from his friend DeMar about letting the game come to him. Unless coach Dwane Casey is prepared to take the radical step of replacing Rudy with Terrence Ross in the starting five, the Raps will need Rudy’s offensive production. Defensively, Rudy has been more than adequate, which he’ll need to be if he’s going to slow down King James.
- Neutralize their second unit. That may consist of little more than hoping they are having an off-night. Miami’s second string, which includes the brilliant Allen, glue guy extraordinaire Shane Battier, and Chris (Birdman) Andersen up front, would make a very respectable group of starters for half the teams in the NBA. Our guys…wouldn’t. Tyler Hansbrough will need to box out Andersen, TRoss must fight through screens to keep Allen within arm’s length – a tall order for everyone, but essential.
Miami is the back to back NBA champion, and is playing like they want to make it three. The Raps broke off whatever momentum they had created with that hugely disappointing loss to Brooklyn. Try as I might, I can’t find sufficient reasons to believe the Raps can handle the streaking Heat. Toronto will hang around, but Miami knows how to close teams out, and will win the fourth quarter on their way to a 104-95 victory.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor 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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