• Miami HEAT at Toronto Raptors Game 1 Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Ron Turenne The Miami HEAT face the Toronto Raptors Tuesday night at Air Canada Centre in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The HEAT fell to the Raptors 112-104 in their last meeting on March 12. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM and television coverage is on TNT, although you can log on to HEAT.com for an exclusive one-hour pre-game show. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket. 1: The Raptors have two players that keep their offense scoring. How can Miami defend DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry? Couper Moorhead: It’s all about the pick-and-roll with these two. DeRozan and Lowry were two of the league’s most consistent attackers off the dribble this year, each of them capable of getting to the rim or pulling up for a jumper while being prolific in their abilities to draw fouls. It should almost go without saying that Miami will need to reduce its fouls from the Charlotte series to keep DeRozan and Lowry from earning easy points. Otherwise, much of the responsibility will fall on Hassan Whiteside – just as it did against the Hornets. While both of Toronto’s attackers are capable from the perimeter – with Lowry the only one likely to pullup from three – their efficiency depends on getting to the rim. If Whiteside can contain the paint as well as he recently did in Game 7 and Miami’s guard and wing defenders can consistently get around screens, then Toronto could become heavily reliant on jumpers as Charlotte was when Miami defended at its best. That doesn’t mean open jumpers off the catch, however. With the exception of Cory Joseph the Raptors rotation is littered with more-than-capable spot-up shooters. So, again as with Charlotte, the HEAT won’t have the luxury of sending too much help into the paint. Joe Beguiristain: DeRozan and Lowry pose the same challenges that Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin did in the first round. It’s easier said than done, but Miami will have to try and limit both guards from getting into the paint as much as possible. DeRozan uses his quickness to get to the rack, while Lowry simply bullies his way to the cup. Although the backcourt duo struggled mightily from the field against the Pacers (combined to shoot 31.8 percent in the seven-game series), both made plays when the team needed them the most. Case in point: DeRozan scored 13 points in the third quarter of Game 7 to swing momentum back to the Raptors. Lowry, meanwhile, continued to set up his teammates for good looks off the drive-and-kick. While DeRozan can shoot the mid-range jumper, Lowry is more lethal from beyond the arc. With that in mind, the HEAT’s guards will have to fight hard through screens on the pick-and-roll like in Game 7 against the Hornets. Still, much of the onus will be on Hassan Whiteside to make Toronto’s guards second-guess their approach. If Whiteside can stay out of foul trouble and protect the rim, Miami will make things much tougher on the Raptors.  2: What can Miami expect to see from Toronto defensively? Couper: The Raptors use Jonas Valanciunas much in the same way that Miami uses Whiteside – playing back in the pick-and-roll to seal off the paint. That’s fairly typical coverage and nothing Miami hasn’t seen before, though in Lowry the Raptors have a strong, quick guard who can keep the ball in front and navigate screens which could make it difficult for Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade (in possible cross-matches) to get into the paint. But it’s not all a conservative approach. With Patrick Patterson now starting in place of Luis Scola the Raptors are a little more dynamic in their schematic approach, with Patterson capable of playing the ball a little more aggressively when its called for. Miami will also have to be wary of Toronto’s size and athleticism. Where they had mismatch advantages when Charlotte had Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lin on the floor at the same time, Toronto has taller and longer defenders which will require a different approach than brute force in the post. There’s also no Frank Kaminsky matchup for Luol Deng this time around. Joe: After facing a very disciplined defensive team in the Hornets, the HEAT find themselves in similar territory with Toronto. The Raptors finished eleventh in defensive efficiency rating for the regular season, just two spots behind Charlotte. That said, Toronto has more players who can wreak havoc on defense. As I stated in my previous response, Lowry is a bullish point guard, and that isn’t just exclusive to the offensive end. Additionally, the Raptors boast solid perimeter defenders in DeMarre Carroll and Patrick Patterson to go along with rim-protecting bigs Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo. You also can’t forget about emerging rookie, Norman Powell. With a slew of athletic wings on the other side, ball movement will be critical for Miami. We all know what Carroll can do, but Powell turned some heads in the first round with some solid defense on Paul George at certain points. In terms of the battle inside, it'll be beneficial for the HEAT to attack the basket and try and get Valanciunas into some early foul trouble. We’ll see how it all pans out on Tuesday night. 3: Where will Miami be able to give itself its greatest advantage in this series? Couper: On the defensive end. There’s no homecourt advantage this time around and the HEAT generally score more efficiently at home – not to mention the Raptors may attempt the same paint-packing scheme that Charlotte just used to extend the previous series to seven games. So, Miami is going to have to find a way to win a game on the road and that path usually leads you towards getting stops. Killing the spot-up game while containing the pick-and-roll is key, but you also have to be aware that Toronto – while one of the slowest teams in the league – is a dynamic transition scoring team if you commit turnovers or don’t get back off misses. In a series that could turn to a slow, grind-it-out style of play there won’t be much margin for error when it comes to giving your opponent extra possessions and easy baskets. Joe: I agree with Coup. When Miami defends at the level it is capable of, it is very tough to beat. If the HEAT can force DeRozan and Lowry into tough outside shots thanks to solid perimeter defense and Whiteside’s presence inside, they will have a good chance at stealing home-court in one of these first two games. It should also be noted that Toronto averaged 13.9 turnovers per game in the first round, which is a little higher than its regular season rate. For comparison’s sake, the Hornets only committed 9.4 a game. Despite that, Miami still got out in transition periodically by forcing misses. Hopefully the HEAT can get to that more often in this series. Highlights: March 12 January 22 Game Notes: The Raptors won the regular season series with the HEAT, 3-1. Miami has won at least one road game in 17 straight postseason series, which is the longest steak in NBA history. Hassan Whiteside leads the HEAT in rebounds (11.4) and blocks (3.4) per game for the postseason. DeMar DeRozan leads Toronto in points (17.9) and steals (1.6) per contest in the playoffs.

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