The Toronto Raptors are on a second night of a back-to-back in Florida, this time against the Miami Heat, who may be without Dwyane Wade and Greg Oden due to either injury or rest. On the other side though, Patrick Patterson will be back, after missing the last couple weeks with an elbow injury. The Raptors (42-31) are coming off a stressful win against the Orlando Magic, winning only by 5 despite leading by as much as 21 . On the other hand, the Heat (50-22) are looking forward to another season series sweep of the Claws tonight. This will be a major test for the Raps, as this Miami team will make their runs, and go on major momentum swings; this will show whether the Raptors’ mental toughness is just for show, or if they’re the real deal.
Raptors Cage’s Keys To The Game
1. Use Your Size
The Raptors haven’t been doing a great job of involving their bigs consistently throughout the game. Jonas Valanciunas has seen the ball multiple times without stoppage in the first quarter, with drastic decrease in touches as the game carries on. With Oden possibly being out, there will be a number of big bodies to take advantage of Miami’s weakness in size. Play big, and look to attack the glass as well.
2. Contain LeBron James
It’s not easy to do, as it’s been proven in the last three meetings against the Heat. The one part of his game – despite improving at a terrific rate – that is a weakness, is his jump-shooting. Terrence Ross, John Salmons, possibly Landry Fields, maybe even Amir Johnson will get the taste of guarding LeBron; letting LBJ into the paint is suicide defensively, for he’s such a great passer and finisher around the rim. Force him to take jumpers (contested ones, obviously) and hope that he doesn’t burn the defence in transition by himself, which he could do effortlessly.
3. Take Care of the Basketball
In addition to the last point, the Heat are almost automatic in transition, granted because of their athletes, and of course the reigning MVP. Taking care of the basketball is crucial for the Raptors to have any success; it’ll force Miami into a half-court game, and you prevent them from making major runs or momentum swings which could close the game significantly. In addition to that, it will allow the Raptors to get set up in their defence, meaning the Heat can’t take advantage of cross match-ups, which, again, they are very good at. A smart and decisive team, and if anything easy rolls to them (turnovers, turnovers, turnovers), they will make use of them.
X-Factor: DeMar DeRozan
I’d like to see an All-Star battle between LeBron James and DeMar DeRozan. I remember when OKC was in town, and DeMar and Kevin Durant went back and forth, making tough shots, getting to the free-throw line, etc. It will not only be fun, but it will be a necessity for Derozan to have a good game tonight, to counter whatever the star power of Miami will throw and punch at the Raps.