Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat Preview
These may be two of the most surprising teams in the Eastern Conference this year. The Raptors are currently 23-11 (4th in East) and the Heat sit at 24-9 (3rd in East). Both teams rank in the top 12 on both offense and defense. With only 6 of their losses on the season on the road (including Celtics, Bucks, and Clippers), the Raptors are more than comfortable playing away from home. Miami has proven to be almost unbeatable at home, with their lone loss against the Lakers.
Both teams rely heavily on perimeter play, although Miami has a solid all-around attack. Miami’s depth makes them hard to beat, and their youth has been surpassing expectations this season. Despite Kawhi Leonard leaving, there has not been a huge dropoff for the Raptors. They do not have the depth they have had in years past, but coaching and the emergence of guys like Siakam and VanVleet have kept them atop the Eastern Conference.
The last matchup for the Raptors-Heat resulted in an OT victory (121-110) for the Heat on Toronto’s home court. Toronto has been great in limiting the opposing team’s best player. In their last matchup, Butler went for 22, 12, 13. Even if Butler were to struggle in this one, the Heat have so many other guys who can carry the load offensively.
Time: 7:30 PM ET
Arena: American Airlines, Miami, Fl
TV: NBA TV
Raptors: Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell, Marc Gasol
Heat: Justise Winslow
Toronto Raptors Starting Lineup
The Raptors have had some challenges of late, losing 3 of their last 5. A lot of this has to do with injuries to Siakam, Powell, and Gasol. They are perhaps their top three overall defenders, so many teams have had much better success scoring on them as of late. Yet, the guard play of VanVleet and Lowry has kept them in several games.
Ibaka will need to have a huge impact on the offensive and defensive end. Guys like McCaw and Anunoby will also need to provide some scoring at the rim and on open looks. Miami has pretty solid perimeter defenders in Butler and Nunn, so efficiency from Lowry and Vanvleet may be a concern if no one else steps up for the Raptors.
The main issue for the Raptors at this point in time is whether they can score enough points. Without huge games from VanVleet and Lowry, their chances to win this game go out the window.
Miami Heat Starting Lineup
The Heat boast one of the deepest teams in the league. They have natural scorers in Butler, Dragic, and Nunn. These players are also reliable for perimeter shooting, along with rookie Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. The play of Bam Adebayo has been stellar, averaging nearly 16 and 11 on the year. Every night there seems to be someone who has a great game on the offensive end. Miami’s team defense has also been special, especially at home.
Players such as Derrick Jones Jr., Meyers Leonard, and Bam are versatile defenders that can cover a lot of ground. Justice Winslow has yet to come back from injury, and he is a do-it-all type of guy for Miami. Health has not been a down factor for them outside of Winslow, and that has a lot to do with their success this season.
If they continue playing team basketball and applying pressure defensively, they will be a dangerous team in the playoffs. Other teams in the Eastern Conference have more star power, but this Heat team lacks few weaknesses like no other. They possess ball handlers, playmakers, natural scorers, interior/perimeter defense, perimeter shooting, and a great coaching scheme led by Erik Spoelstra. Given their track record this year, it would be surprising for them to drop this game against an injury-ridden Raptors team.
Key Player Matchups
Kendrick Nunn/Jimmy Butler vs. Kyle Lowry/ Fred Vanvleet
Depending on who matches up with who, players on both teams will go head-to-head at times throughout the game. After starting the year strong, Kendrick Nunn has cooled down slightly of late. Yet, the Raptors scheme will most likely limit Butler’s scoring opportunities, and Nunn will have the ball in his hands more as a result.
It is no secret Jimmy Butler is a top perimeter defender in the league. Lowry and VanVleet are special with the ball, whether at the 3 point line, attacking the rim, or playmaking. If either Lowry or VanVleet is held to a subpar game, the Raptors’ chances are severely affected. Both players have shown they can play well in big games against top teams. Butler or Nunn can afford to have an off-game, but the same can not be said for the Raptors starting backcourt.
Serge Ibaka vs. Bam Adebayo
Bam Adebayo is a double-double machine. In the last matchup, Bam only went for 18 and 7, but that was against a healthy Marc Gasol. It will be interesting to see how Ibaka plays Adebayo. The key for him is to not get in foul trouble given the current injuries for the Raptors. Serge went for 13 and 9 in 22 minutes in the last matchup. If he can provide similar production on a per-minute basis, that is all the Raptors can ask of him. The battle on the boards will be a huge factor in extra possessions for both teams. Bam will attack the rim regardless, so it is important that Ibaka makes him alter shots at the rim without fouling.
For the Raptors, Lowry and VanVleet will be the main beneficiaries fantasy-wise with Siakam out. They will need more production from Ibaka, so look for him to be more aggressive offensively.
A game such as this is hard to predict exactly who will do well in fantasy for Miami against Toronto’s scheme. Butler has a chance for near triple-double numbers, and Bam has averaged 53.1 fantasy points on the year, 4th best at his position. Nunn, Herro, Robinson, or Dragic can explode offensively for this Heat team.
They will have chances for open looks from 3 against a Raptors team with two smaller guards defending them. Ultimately, Butler and Adebayo are the only sure-fire players to have big games in fantasy. Dragic, Nunn, or Herro can easily put up huge numbers as well.
Bet on Matchup
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