The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors will conclude their Eastern Conference Semifinal series tomorrow when they play a deciding 7th game. The winner will go on to Cleveland to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers on Tuesday in the Eastern Conference Finals. Let’s take a look at some advantages and disadvantages of our two combatants.
Why the Heat will win
1. Dwayne Wade
Wade has been here before and he knows how to win high pressure games. Granted some of those were with LeBron when he was in Miami, but Wade knows how to win games on his own too, eliminating the Charlotte Hornets in 7 games in the first round. The Heat won’t have Hassan Whiteside for tomorrow’s game, but plenty of role players should step up.
2. X-Factor: Goran Dragic
That name sounds like a Rocky villain. Anyways Dragic did a brilliant job stepping up in yesterday’s Game 6 win over the Raptors, scoring 30 points. Despite the absence of Chris Bosh for the remainder of the playoffs he has proven to be a decent #2 option. If he repeats his success the Heat will advance.
3. Toronto is 2-6 when they have a chance to eliminate someone
Granted this goes more with franchise history rather than what the actual team is made up of this season, but the Raptors have never been to the Conference Finals. They eliminated an Indiana Pacers team in 7 games that starred a red-hot Paul George, but this isn’t the Pacers they’re facing. This is a veteran playoff team that could be celebrating on Toronto’s home court if they don’t bring their A game.
Why the Raptors will win
1. They were 32-9 at home in the regular season
Granted this is the playoffs, but that is a sure sign that Home-Court advantage definitely works in the Raptors favor. Toronto did lose a First Round Game 7 in 2014 to a veteran Brooklyn Nets team, but the Raptors have a little more bite with the additional playoff experience they’ve gained.
2. Lowry and DeRozan
I like these guys. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are both All-Stars yet nobody seems to be talking about them. It could be because they play in Toronto which isn’t a major basketball mecca, however, that is besides the point. Those two are averaging 42.7 PPG in the series together. If the Raptors win tomorrow, it will be because one or more likely both of these guys stepped up.
3. Small chance, but Valanciunas may return
Jonas Valanciunas probably won’t come back (he was ruled out in the most recent injury report due to an ankle injury in Game 3), but hoops prognosticators say he might be back tomorrow if a miracle healing occurs. Should that happen, he and his 12.1 rebounds per game are big trouble to Miami especially with their big man Hassan Whiteside out as well. Count it as a major advantage in Toronto’s favor.
I think Toronto ultimately will win this one. I can see this going either way, but the Raptors have stepped up when it counted this postseason. They also are 2-1 against LeBron this year in the regular season. A major stat in their favor should they advance.