Toronto Versus Miami PreviewEastern Conference Second Round
#2 Toronto (56-26) vs. #3 Miami (48-34)
Season series: Toronto, 3-1
Miami can win if…Dwyane Wade continues to perform at a high level and each member of the Heat's talented ensemble cast continues to understand and accept the correct role: Luol Deng has thrived as a "stretch four" while Chris Bosh has been sidelined due to injury, Hassan Whiteside can be a ferocious rim protector/rebounder, after a sluggish first two thirds of the season Goran Dragic has thrived as Miami switched to a faster pace and midseason acquisition Joe Johnson has provided scoring punch.
Toronto will win because…the Raptors are a deep, well balanced team that will be more relaxed, confident and efficient than before after finally overcoming the hurdle of winning a seven game series. The Raptors have seemed to be a rising Eastern Conference power during recent regular seasons only to twice stumble in the first round of the playoffs. This year, a game and gritty Indiana team pushed the Raptors to the final minutes of game seven but the Raptors prevailed.
Other things to consider: By reputation, Toronto's All-Star backcourt duo of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry is one of the NBA's top guard tandems but they shot just .319 and .316 from the field respectively in the first round of the playoffs. After building a double digit lead, the Raptors almost collapsed at home in the fourth quarter of game seven versus the Pacers. Toronto seemed to be running some kind of "prevent offense" for the last several minutes, draining 19-20 seconds off of the shot clock before attempting a hurried, low percentage shot. That should never happen to a contending team, particularly one whose strength is in the backcourt. Lowry and/or DeRozan should have taken over the game and made sure that the Raptors got off a good shot attempt each time down the court. That kind of shaky execution concerns me, particularly in a series like this when the opposing team has a proven closer who has been a key member of three championship teams; Dwyane Wade rescued the Heat in the first round on the road in game six versus Charlotte and if the Raptors are sloppy or nervous down the stretch in close games then Wade could very well add some more clips to his Hall of Fame induction video.
I expect this series to have a lot of twists and turns before Toronto prevails, probably in a close seventh game.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:04 PM