• Miami HEAT at Toronto Raptors Game 2 Thread and Preview

    Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley The Miami HEAT face the Toronto Raptors Thursday night at Air Canada Centre in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The HEAT defeated the Raptors 102-96 in Game 1 on May 3. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM and television coverage is on ESPN, 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: Despite the issues at the end of the game, what were the HEAT able to do in Game 1 that impressed you? Couper Moorhead: While the offense did enough to pull out the overtime victory, it was the offense Miami forced Toronto into that was most impressive. After some early actions involving Jonas Valanciunas the Raptors never seemed to sustain much of a rhythm and by the end of the game everything was an isolation or pick-and-roll for DeMar DeRozan. Miami didn’t have to stay attached to shooters in the same way they did with the Charlotte Hornets, and that extra presence in the paint helped keep DeRozan contained to jumpers off the dribble. All that said, it’s very clear that Kyle Lowry isn’t playing his usual game. If he were, the Raptors would be a much more dynamic offense and the HEAT wouldn’t be able to key in on the same actions. But unless Lowry turns things around, and we would still expect him to do so, the HEAT would do well to repeat their Game 1 defense. Joe Beguiristain: That HEAT’s ability to push the pace for a majority of the game is what really impressed me. Naturally, Goran Dragic made a number of nice plays in transition and had an offensive explosion in the third quarter. Of course, Miami’s strong play on the defensive end fueled the fire. In all, the HEAT scored 16 points off the Raptors’ 15 turnovers. Luol Deng led the team with four steals, but Dwyane Wade wasn’t far off with three of his own, including the game-sealing steal with 4.9 seconds left in overtime. Even when Miami wasn’t getting in the passing lanes, it stifled Toronto’s offense and made it one-dimensional. With Kyle Lowry continuing to struggle, the team focused on stopping DeMar DeRozan. The dynamic 26-year-old worked for everything he got, as the HEAT had Deng and Joe Johnson defend him at certain points throughout the contest. As a result, DeRozan finished the game just 9-of-22 from the field for his 22 points. It’ll be tough, but that’s the kind of defensive effort you need on the road in the playoffs, especially when the home team is already down 1-0. 2: Regarding what happened toward the end of the game, is there anything in particular Miami needs to clean up? Couper: Despite another bout of great shot-making from the veterans – talents which have won a few less-than-pretty games already – the HEAT should still strive for better looks than they were getting. The Raptors can pack the paint, but they rely a bit more on size and athleticism than the precision of the Hornets, so there should be opportunities available if the execution and spacing improves. That’s a bit of a generality, but sometimes you just need to be better and the HEAT have plenty on offense that they can tighten up. Joe: Quite simply, Miami just needs to take better care of the ball down the stretch. While Wade was fantastic on both ends in the fourth quarter and overtime period combined, the team as a whole had some turnovers that really could have swung things the other way. Luckily, the HEAT overcame them thanks to stifling defense, but those kinds of costly turnovers late in a game are not something you want to become a pattern. At the end of the day, Miami’s grit and resolve in the face of adversity was quite impressive. That’s what separates the good teams from the great teams. 3: Did either team reveal a particular advantage that needs to be addressed in Game 2? Couper: On the Raptors side, it was the Valanciunas-DeRozan side pick-and-roll that gave Miami a few problems. It didn’t expose any holes in coverage and Miami covered it better as the game wore on, but it’s a look we’ll see again because DeRozan was able to make some plays out of it. For Miami, the most eye-opening matchup was that of Joe Johnson and DeMarre Carroll. Carroll has held his own against LeBron James before, so it was surprising to see Johnson back him down and score with such ease. It may have just been a bad night for Carroll, but if things continue as they did in Game 1 that could force a double team, which would give Johnson options for the kick-out. Joe: For the HEAT, Wade had his way with rookie Norman Powell, who guarded him for a majority of the contest. While you may think that is to be expected, Powell defended Paul George pretty well in the first round. Wade also did damage against Terrence Ross and Cory Joseph thanks to some solid screens from his teammates. We’ll see if the Raptors defend the future Hall-of-Famer any differently in Game 2. In terms of Toronto, the team made things tough on Hassan Whiteside. They limited his damage in the pick-and-roll by packing the paint and made the talented big man catch the ball a little out of his range. Still, Whiteside found a way to make an impact and grabbed 17 boards on Tuesday night.  Highlights: Game 1 March 12   Game Notes: Dwyane Wade has scored at least 20 points in 15 straight games in Toronto. Wade is leading Miami with 19.6 points, 4.9 assists and 0.9 steals per game in the postseason. DeMar DeRozan leads Toronto in scoring during the playoffs at 18.4 points per contest. Chris Bosh is officially listed as out for the remainder of the postseason.

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