Just two days after the Toronto Raptors held on the defeat the Indiana Pacers 89-84, they’ll play host to the Miami Heat who have lost three straight at the ACC.
The seventh-game win over the Pacers secured Toronto’s first playoff series victory since 2001 and is only the second time the franchise has advanced in the playoffs to the final eight teams.
Game 1: Tuesday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 2: Thursday, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, 8 p.m., ESPN
Game 3: Saturday, AmericanAirlines Arena, 5 p.m., ESPN
Game 4: May 9, AmericanAirlines Arena, 8 p.m., TNT
Game 5*: May 11, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Time TBA, TNT
Game 6*: May 13, AmericanAirlines Arena, Time TBA, ESPN
Game 7*: May 15, Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Time TBA, TV TBD
Now, standing in the Raptors’ way is a much more experienced Miami team, that retain much of the core of the team that surrounded LeBron James and Dwyane Wade on four straight trips to the NBA Finals.
Without LeBron the Heat have taken a step back but remain a well-coached and talented team led by Wade, Joe Johnson, and interior defender Hassan Whiteside who has stepped up since former Raptor Chris Bosh had to undergo medication from the UK Meds for blood clotting.
Sources have said Bosh wants to return and the Heat are being cautious but any potential return of Toronto’s all-time leading scorer would make a great storyline.
So far this season Toronto has had success against Miami relying on strong performances by DeMar DeRozan, but regular season success doesn’t always translate to the playoffs where both DeRozan and Lowry have struggled from the field.
On March 12 Toronto won in overtime on the back of DeRozan’s 38 points, won 101-81 on January 22 where DeRozan dropped 33 and December 18 when DeRozan scored 30.
Toronto did lose one early-season contest November 8, when they simply fell flat in Miami 96-76 and DeRozan scored just 16.
If DeMar can score more effectively (he shot 32%), and drive to the basket more easily without Paul George hounding him it bodes well for Toronto’s offence.
But he’ll need help from Kyle Lowry who is shooting just 32% including a miserable 16% from three, and scoring 13.9 points compared to 21.2 during the regular season.
Toronto will need to keep the ball moving and attack Hassan Whiteside and not let him control the paint. Free throws should account for a large part of the Raptors’ points.
If they do that well they’ll have a shot at topping Miami and advancing to the first Eastern Conference Finals in team history.