Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat Series Preview

Mar 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat forward Joe Johnson (2) looks to play a ball as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) tries to defend during the fourth quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors won 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Miami Heat forward Joe Johnson (2) looks to play a ball as Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (10) tries to defend during the fourth quarter in a game at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors won 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports /

The Toronto Raptors finally did it. For the first time in their history, they won a best-of-seven playoff series, defeating the Indiana Pacers in seven games.

Welcome to round two, Raptors’ fans! For only the second time in their 21-year history, the Toronto Raptors are playing in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

Although things almost fell apart late in the fourth quarter of Game 7, the Raptors survived and finally removed the gigantic first round monkey that clenched onto their back for the past two seasons.

Now the Raptors welcome Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat to town. Fresh off a seven-game series against the Charlotte Hornets, the Heat shook off their inconsistencies and managed to defeat the Hornets handily in Game 7.

The Raptors and Heat matchup well with each other, so I’d expect a tight series all the way through. With that in mind, here are a couple other things to consider as we get ready for this series.

According to the Wise Guys:

More from Tip of the Tower

The Westgate Las Vegas Super Book — widely regarded as the most respected sports book in Vegas — opened the Raptors as five point favourites for Game 1 with the total sitting at 191.5. As for the series, the Raptors are favoured to win, sitting at (-165) odds, while the Heat are underdogs, opening at (+145) odds.

3 Storylines to Watch:

Lowry, Dragic Battle Like Old Times

During their short stint with the Houston Rockets in 2010-11, Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic were known for their battles against each other in practice. Both players eventually moved on from Houston, but they remained friends and competitors.

Now the two players are set to renew their old practice rivalry, except a lot more than playing time is on the line.

For Lowry, his health continues to be a major question mark. He insists his elbow is healthy, and according to what ESPN‘s Zach Lowe is hearing, Lowry is just in a shooting funk.

If his elbow is actually fine, the Raptors need him to snap out of this funk and find his shooting touch. Even though Lowry has been a very cerebral player on the court, despite his shooting woes, he hasn’t played at the level we’re accustomed to seeing.

Apr 12, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry takes a jump shot in the second half of a 122-98 win over Philadelphia 76ers at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Dragic seems to have found his role in Miami and was a key contributor to their round one victory, averaging 14.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

Both Lowry and Dragic have evolved into much different players since their days in Houston together. How the two attack each other will be an interesting battle to watch.

How Will Raptors Handle Heat’s Small Ball Attack

Since the All-Star break, Miami has increased their tempo and had a tendency to play small with Joe Johnson and Luol Deng at forward. Both of these decisions have given the Heat an advantage over a lot of opponents down the stretch, and is a big reason for their second half success.

The Raptors also deploy a small lineup of their own, which was something we saw more of in round one. If the forward rotation continues to revolve around Patterson, Carroll, DeRozan and Ross off the bench, the Raptors should be able to match the Heat’s small-ball attack.

Could Bosh Return?

Rumours of Chris Bosh possibly returning have floated around the Internet for the past few days. But according to Chris O’Leary of The Star, and Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinal, a return seems unlikely.

"On TNT’s post-game show Sunday night, Charles Barkley said he’d talked to people that said Bosh does want to play in these playoffs. Bosh didn’t make the trip to Toronto with the Heat, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, but rumours persisted through Sunday night that Bosh wants to rejoin his team.– Chris O’Leary, The Star"

Considering all that Bosh has been through over the past year and a bit, you have to feel for him. But considering how much he helps the Heat on the floor, it certainly bodes well for the Raptors that he’s likely out for this series.

Where the Series Will be Won:

These two teams match up pretty well with one another, but two areas that stick out are the paint and the perimeter. Hassan Whiteside is an absolute force underneath the basket and the Raptors do a good job of defending the paint. At times they commit so much to the paint that they leave themselves vulnerable to the three ball.

May 1, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward Luol Deng (9) shoots over Charlotte Hornets guard Courtney Lee (1) during the second half in game seven of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 106-73. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

That’s where both Miami and Toronto have struggled recently, particularly Toronto. The Raptors had the second worst perimeter defence during the regular season and were plagued by the three ball during their series against the Pacers, allowing them to convert on 38.2 percent of their attempts (a number that would look much worse if C.J. Miles didn’t shoot 2-for-20 in the series).

The Heat aren’t the greatest jump shooting team, but last series against Charlotte they lit it up from beyond the arc in each of their wins, hitting 47.2 percent of their three-point attempts. Their most efficient shooter was Luol Deng, who connected on a scorching hot 57.8 percent of his threes.

I doubt the Heat shoot anywhere near 50 percent from three again this series, but considering the Raptors perimeter defence, it’s an area that will heavily impact each outcome.

The inside-out game — and high screen-and-roll — will be fun to watch this series, especially since the Heat prefer to play small.


Give me the Raptors in seven. The proverbial first round monkey is off their back and I think their nerves will calm down a bit. The phrase “playing with house money” has been thrown around a lot since Sunday night.

While I’d agree with that sentiment, the same could be said for the Heat. If the Raptors play like they did in round one, this series will be over in six — max. But I’m banking on a much looser Raptors team here in round two that will play with a different mindset.

Next: Raptors: DeRozan Proves Himself When it Matters Most

They’ll shoot better from the field, Lowry will continue to do his best Jason Kidd impression, Casey will match the Heat’s small lineups, and the Raptors will grind the Heat for seven games.