The Toronto Raptors take their final crack of the regular season at the NBA champions in Miami tonight (Raptors @ Heat tickets can be found at the link.) The Heat defeated the Raps twice in Toronto in November, during the dreary depths of the Rudy Gay era. Now the revitalized Raps bring their 5-game win streak to the league’s most spoiled fans.
The s0-called Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh united in south Florida three seasons ago, and since then have one NBA runner-up and two championships to their credit. It’s a brave prognosticator who would suggest they can’t make it a three-peat. LeBron remains the best player on the planet, an astonishing combination of power and finesse who can impose his will on either side of the ball. Wade’s body has been displaying some cracks, so coach Erik Spoelstra is extremely careful how he doles out his brilliant guard’s minutes. When Wade is on the floor, he still manages to zip to the bucket, or pull up for a smooth jump shot, like he’s still a rookie. Bosh seems comfortable with his role as third option on offense, and manages to score over 16 Points Per Game.
Those guys are more than enough trouble, and the rest of the Heat aren’t too shabby either. Pat Riley, Heat President and certified genius executive, is happy to grab “project” or “problem” players from other teams. For example, Chris “Birdman” Anderson was rotting on Denver’s bench, and now has a championship ring. He will give Jonas Valanciunas much trouble in the low block. Michael Beasley has bounced around the NBA for years, and labelled a flop after being the second selection in the 2008 Draft. Yet he’s contributing in Miami. Shane Battier is the Heat’s glue guy, though he’s struggling with his 3-point shot this season. No matter – they can call on Ray Allen, the best long-range gunner ever.
You get the picture. The Raps will need to dig deep, but can grab another road win if they:
- don’t surrender the paint. Miami is a team of slashers, and a clogged key will force them outside.
- get in LeBron’s face, and stay there. While this man runs on emotion, and likes to punish players and teams who irk him, I’d rather rile him up, and get him away from their game plan as a result, than allow him to function normally. Terrence Ross, are you ready for your closeup?
- bother every shot. Miami shoots a remarkable 51.2% from the field, considerably higher than their opponents.
Miami has just 3 home losses this season, and 14 wins. They are returning from a routine victory in Orlando last night in which Rashard Lewis, another Riley reclamation project, started and scored 18 points. LeBron had an off-night, however, and perhaps that will continue. If so, Toronto will shock the complacent Floridians 99-97.
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.