After coming off a tough 92-87 loss against the Magic, the Toronto Raptors will try to split their trip to Florida against Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat. Raptors small forward DeMarre Carroll is questionable for tonights contest after having dealt with planter fasciitis for the last 10 days. The Raptors (5-1) will hope to continue demonstrating their revamped brand of basketball against a Miami (3-3) team with deep playoff aspirations. The Raptors will get to see former franchise player Chris Bosh for the first time since he went out with blood clots in his lungs. The Heat are 11-0 when Bosh plays the Raptors and apart from their two wins last season the Heat have won 17 of their last 19 games against the Raptors.
The Raptors struggled offensively against the Magic to finish that game shooting only 35% from the field. While they did a great job in protecting the rock by accumulating only 9 turnovers; they weren’t able to put the ball in the basket. The Heat are a much improved defensive teams and have played some relatively close games against tough competition -with the exception of a 20-point blowout win against the Rockets. The Heat are holding opponents to only 41% shooting so if the Raptors get off to another slow start they could find themselves in trouble early on. If that’s the case it could another long and ugly nail-biter for the Raps.
Flash & The Dragon
The Raptors backcourt will have their hands full as Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan will match-up with All-NBAers Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade. Lowry has been able to hold his own against the best at his position; and Dragic hasn’t found his rhythm yet this season. DeRozan will be the one tested tonight against Wade if Carroll isn’t able to suit up. At 33 years old, Wade is still able to get his game going as he’s averaging 20 ppg and 4.5 ast while shooting 46% from the field. The Heat have averaged 90 points in their 3 losses this season, so if the Raptors’ defence can keep Miami’s scoring in check than they should be able to come away from tonight’s contest victorious.
Clean the Glass
The Heat have one of the NBA’s best young centre’s on the glass with Hassan Whiteside in the middle. Whiteside is currently 7th in the NBA in rebounds per game, pulling 10.3 rebounds every night, while Raptors’ centre Jonas Valanciunas is right ahead of him in the standings averaging a career high 11 rebounds through the first six games of the season. Whiteside is a physical player who knows how to use his length to his advantage so this is where Bismack Biyombo and his 6 fouls will prove to be extremely valuable for the Raptors. Whiteside lacks composure, is extremely emotional and is easily agitated. I wouldn’t be surprised if Whiteside ends up taking himself out of the game mentally before he has any major impact statistically.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas
Tonight’s X-factor is Raptors’ starting centre Jonas Valanciunas. JV will have quite the matchup in the middle against Whiteside. He was limited offensively against the Magic after getting into early foul trouble, but bounced back in other ways by relentlessly attacking the defensive rebounds accumulating a franchise high 11 rebounds in a single quarter. Whiteside is a tenacious shot-blocker averaging 3.7 swats per game which is good for third in the league. Valanciunas needs to take advantage of Whiteside’s eagerness to block shots by getting him out of position, using his pump-fakes and drawing fouls on the big.