The Raptors suit up tonight without big man Jonas Valanciunas in the lineup, while the Heat will play without their starting centre Hassan Whiteside in a pivotal Game 4 in Miami which could see Toronto take a two game lead or Miami level the series at two apiece.
Toronto has confirmed Valanciunas’ absence for the rest of the series with a sprained right ankle, while Whiteside was declared day-to-day with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
With both centres out of the picture, the Raptors announced Bismack Biyombo as their starting centre and will look to him to focus on rim protection and rebounding. For Miami, veteran Udonis Haslem has gotten the most significant minutes outside of Whiteside, but the Heat have just announced Amare Stoudemire as their starter for Game 4.
The absence of the big men could drastically shift the attitude of the series towards small ball, ultimately the play of the substations will sway the direction Coaches Dwane Casey and Erik Spoelstra decide to play.
The Raptors arguably played their best basketball of the playoffs in the 95-91 win against Miami on Saturday, with a comfortable Kyle Lowry dropping 33 points, and Valanciunas adding 16 points and 12 rebounds en route to his sixth double double in his 10 playoff games this year. For Miami, Dwayne Wade had 38 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in the loss.
Meanwhile the Cavaliers swept their way to the Eastern Confrence Finals with a 100-99 win over Atlanta last night to advance undefeated through the first two rounds of playoffs. The Cavs are a daunting obstacle for whichever team advances from the series, as LeBron and Co. have been playing frighteningly good basketball and will be well rested to take on the winners of the Raps-Heat.