It’s an amazing feeling to finally have that monkey of our back. With that being said, the Toronto Raptors still have business to take care of as the team begins their 7 game series against the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The series against the Indiana Pacers just ended and already we have another Raptors game tonight. However, just like Indiana, the Heat are a tough opponent who’ve been to the promise land and have veterans that know what it takes to deliver in the playoffs. In my opinion, this series is not going to be any easier than the teams last one. Especially if two All Stars continue their historically bad playoff performances. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will need to show up in order for Toronto to have a chance of overcoming the depth of Miami. Jonas Valanciunas will also need to maintain his role as a beast in the paint. Let’s take a look at Cage’s keys to the game.
The pressure of getting out of the first round has been alleviated and because of that, the Raptors should be playing more relaxed, looking like the 56-win team they are. DeMar and Kyle will need to step their games up and perform like All Stars. As mentioned before, Miami is an experienced team. If Toronto can get a strong start in tonights game, the team should be able to capitalize and continue that momentum for the rest of the game. With energetic guys like Norman Powell, Bismack Biyombo, and others coming off the bench, a strong start will favour the Dinos.
Attack the Basket
Through 7 games against Indiana, the boys from the Six have drawn an average of 22.3 fouls per game, second best for remaining playoff teams. Miami on the other hand, has drawn 17.4, which is dead last among playoff teams. If DeMar can back to being himself, driving the to the basket and drawing fouls, this should not be a hard game tonight. As Dwane Casey says, the team likes to take a game-by-game approach and if that’s the case, driving to the basket will be a pivotal part of winning the game tonight.
Crash the Glass
The Heat have conjured an impressive average of 47 boards per game, 3rd best for teams in the second round. A lot of this has to be attributed to the play of Hassan Whiteside, who’s become one the leagues premier defensive players. The closest thing the Raps have is Bismack Biyombo. However, we have a talented big man of our own in Jonas Valanciunas, who averaged 13.6 points, 12 boards and 1.4 blocks against the Pacers.
X-Factor: DeMarre Carroll
Dwyane Wade isn’t the explosive athlete he used to be and if needed, the team has Norman Powell and Cory Joseph to annoy him if needed. Lowry and DeRozan will need to be on top of their game tonight as they try to contain Wade and Goran Dragic, but it will be Mr. 58 million who proves to be the X-Factor in this series. Carroll was brought in the to be a defensive stopper against physical guards and forwards which is exactly what we will be experiencing as the Raptors take on a familiar face in Joe Johnson. With DeMarre on Johnson, it doesn’t seem plausible that JJ gets the shots he did 2 years ago. It’s #WeTheNorth vs #TheyTheSouth tonight as the Toronto Raptors take on the Miami Heat.