The Raptors have taken their limited talents to South Beach for an early match against the Miami Heat. Do they have what it takes to cause a massive upset? The HQ's Sasha Kalra weighs in on their chances...
It's Super Bowl Sunday and most of the sports world will be focusing on the impending game between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots tonight. There is a basketball game to be played and most of the matches today have early start times so that fans don't have to choose. (Although for some the choice is rather easy)
The Raptors are fresh off a morale-boosting win against the woeful Washington Wizards and now embark on a small two game road trip. After they wrap it up on Monday night in Washington they will return home for 7 straight games.
The team turned in a dominant performance last time out and their bruising inside play in particular stood out. Amir Johnson had easily his best game in the last few weeks and looked like he had put those "personal issues" to bed, but that was against the Wizards.
The Heat started off the season on fire but have since cooled off to join the rest of the pack. Their core hasn't changed and they have made some shrewd off-season moves, notably obtaining Shane Battier and Norris Cole. Keeping pace with the Heat in front of their energetic home crowd is going to be a challenge for this young Raptors team, particularly without Andrea Bargnani.
Do they have a shot at pulling off a surprise win? Here are 3 things they should think about doing if that's the goal:
1) Force Others to Step Up: Playing a team with one all star is hard enough for the Raptors, let alone three. The Dinos will have to do their best when defending James, Wade and Bosh and Dwane Casey is undoubtedly running various defensive schemes in practice. The supporting cast that Pat Riley has surrounded them with is pretty good, yet prone to blow hot and cold. By doubling up on the stars the Raptors can hopefully force more unheralded players to make shots and keep the defense honest.
2) Bench Play: The Raptors truly live and die with the play of their bench. Wins usually coincide with a big night from one of Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa or Linas Kleiza. The Heat's defensive play was excellent last year but this year it has taken a step back. They do average the second highest points per game in the league however, and bench scoring will be very important if the Raptors plan on keeping up with them.
3) DeMar DeRozan: I feel like every two game previews that I write I end up using DeRozan as one of the keys to the game. His play has been up and down this year and it seems like we are witnessing a player who is still coming to terms with what he is truly capable of. He will have his hands full with Dwyane Wade all game and should be tested extensively on the defensive end. With Andrea Bargnani set to miss yet another game, DeRozan's importance is paramount, and if there was ever a game for him to step up in, it's this one against Wade and co.