The Toronto Raptors begin the 2020/21 season on December 23rd against the New Orleans Pelicans. But first, They face the Miami Heat hosting a game for the first time in Tampa Bay at the Amalie Arena.
The Toronto Raptors make their debut appearance in their new but temporary home, the Amalie Arena, on Friday night against the Miami Heat. The game may be played before a live crowd for the first time since March 11th, 2020.
It was reported this week that the Toronto Raptors would play home games before a crowd of fewer than 3200 fans for preseason games and 3800 for regular season play.
Friday, December 18th, 2020 Toronto Raptors vs. the Miami Heat 7 pm EST
The Toronto Raptors will play their third and final preseason game at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay, Florida, on Friday vs. the 2020 Eastern Conference Champions the Miami Heat. This will be Toronto’s debut at the Amalie Arena and will be broadcast on TSN.
Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat all-time Matchup and facts
All-time, the Miami Heat lead this Eastern Conference matchup 54-35. In the last two seasons, the Toronto Raptors are 5-2 in seven games vs. the Heat, losing twice in 2020.
The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat are the two most recent Eastern Conference Champions, with Toronto winning in 2019 and Miami in 2020. Further, Toronto won the NBA Championship in 2019 while Miami was NBA Finalists failing to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020.
The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat had only faced each other once in the playoffs back in 2016. It was a seven-game series won 4-3 by the Toronto Raptors. It allowed Toronto to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in team history, as well as it is the first time a Canadian franchise appeared in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Final.
The Miami Heat have won three NBA titles (2006, 2012, and 2013) and have been Eastern Conference Champions six times. The Toronto Raptors have one NBA title and appeared in two Eastern Conference Finals, winning once in 2019.
What to watch for Friday night
The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat will be two of about seven teams in a dog fight for relevance in the upper echelon of the NBA’s Eastern Conference. The Miami Heat added depth to their already impressive squad that just lost the 2020 NBA Finals by adding veterans Maurice Harkless and Avery Bradley to the roster.
They will expect improvements from sophomores like Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro this season to remain a force in the East.
The Toronto Raptors are a different squad this season, if not weaker than they were last year. It will be interesting to see if head coach Nick Nurse plays a lineup close to the rotation that may be expected for the regular-season or continue to evaluate his role players and depth at the guard positions.
Guard play has been the obvious outstanding part of the Raptors roster, with Fred VanVleet, Terence Davis, DeAndre’ Bembry, rookie Malachi Flynn, and Matt Thomas displaying their shooting talents in the two preseason contests in Charlotte.
Also, expect the Raptors to be prepared defensively as the team relies heavily on creating offense from strong defensive play. The team will need to avoid scoring droughts like the 19-0 run they allowed to Charlotte on Saturday in a 111-100 win or falling behind early in the Monday night contest 25-13 before winning 112-109. The Miami Heat are a better team than Charlotte and will punish the Raptors for their inconsistencies.
Point guard Kyle Lowry did not travel to Charlotte this past weekend for what the team claimed was load management. The question then is will he play Friday Night? Any extended absence by the “GROAT” (greatest Raptor of all time) will spark trade speculation.
The Toronto Raptors paid Fred VanVleet 85 million for the next four years, so at some point, he is the leader of this team, a role Kyle Lowry has handled admirably to this point.
This will be a contest between the last two Eastern Conference titleholders and 2020’s second and fifth-best teams in the NBA’s East. The Raptors and Heat will face off against each other in the regular season on January 20th and 22nd, 2021, with both games scheduled in Tampa Bay.