This series has managed to be knotted up at 1-1. This past Thursday evening, the Toronto Raptors did not completely blow their home court advantage by squeezing past the Miami Heat in a beyond terrible game for both clubs. DeMarre Carroll was able to have a big night scoring 21 points while adding 4 steals and 5 rebounds. His performance along with DeMar DeRozan’s consistent play and some of the most lackluster officiating I have ever seen in the NBA postseason allowed Toronto to win that one. However, the best player in this series by far is Dwyane Wade and I wouldn’t count on him to allow this to happen again.
For Toronto the X-factors are Jonas Valanciunas and Kyle Lowry’s consistency . For Lowry, the regular season was monumental to say the least. He was listed as All-Star for the second time in his career averaging 21 points, 6 assists, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks per game. However, those stellar numbers have not seemed to transfer over into the postseason. This postseason he’s only averaging nearly 14 points per game. On the other hand, Valanciunas has stepped up his play to compensate for Lowry’s debacle of a postseason. Valanciunas is giving Hassan Whiteside a handful averaging 15 points and 13 rebounds a game.
For Miami, there is not too many other players in league history who have been quite as clutch as Dwyane Wade. In late game situations, he is known for playing out of his style. But, I wouldn’t count on Wade to play hero forever. Miami has added some talent to aid him in Joe Johnson and the return of former Heat player, Dorrell Wright.
Johnson has inserted himself in the starting lineup and is producing 12 points a game while adding a strong veteran presence to the Heat. Hassan Whiteside has also continued with consistent play and creates an astronomical presence down low. Some of the best slashers in the league have to change their shots from probable to impossible to avoid getting their shot blocked by Whiteside. Whiteside’s presence allows Miami to focus on perimeter defense. However, this has allowed Whiteside to be put in constant foul trouble. As of late he’s played very conservative, which has allowed Valanciunas to play much better than he normally does.
In addition, Miami is missing its other star Forward in Chris Bosh. Bosh has been ruled out indefinitely by the Heat. Now a former 2x NBA champion, 11x NBA All-Star, close friend of Dwyane Wade and one of the only players left from the Big-Three era is missing out on the action. The Heat could completely pummel the Raptors and contain Valanciunas with Bosh in the mix. The Heat franchise is surely feeling the heat without him.
Luol Deng seemed completely revitalized after the All-Star break. He averaged 17 points this season and had a good number of 20+ point games. Goran Dragic has also got the ball rolling. He started off the regular season very slow. Fortunately for Miami, he has found his groove and has been a key contributor in the most critical games for Miami in this postseason ( 25 points in game 6 of CHA series, 26 in game 1 and 21 in game 2 of TOR series). These two together have a combined average of 33 points per game.
Over the past two games, Miami has shot itself in the foot. The huge amount of turnovers (Miami with 21 turnovers in the last game) has left Heat fans awestruck. When you have players like Wade, Johnson and Deng (who are all well seasoned veterans), you don’t expect turnovers numbers like those. The only reason Thursday’s game was so close is because Toronto couldn’t shoot.
Toronto shot 42 percent from the field and an abysmal 54 percent from the charity stripe. Miami can’t boast about their performance either. Miami shot barely 50 percent and barely 70 percent from the line. Miami had a heap of trouble operating in the half court. I’m not sure if it was Toronto’s defense (which isn’t great) or Miami’s ball handling for the night that is to be given credit for Toronto’s win.
Let’s not even mention that piss poor officiating virus that has spread throughout the playoffs. Its games like game 2 of the San Antonio and Oklahoma City series that capitalizes on the effect of poor officiating. Even in the last game for Miami where Dragic was fouled DeRozan by taking an elbow to the face. A bloodied Dragic, Erik Spoelstra and the Miami Heat fans are left staring at the officials and contemplating what the NBA has come to. Nowadays the officials control more of the game than the actual players. They constantly steal the excitement from the game. But, That’s besides the point.
All in all, Miami are the clear favorites to win game 3. Now that the series is headed to Miami, Toronto will have a real test. I have the Heat closing out the series in game 6. Toronto will get one more win but the way the stars of Toronto are playing, it shows that Toronto is a fragile franchise. If Miami can tighten up loose ends, they should be able to get the job done in game 6. Miami honestly could have swept the Raptors. This is a bad series and fans are dying for it to end already.