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Raptors vs. Heat: A night 15 years in the making

Toronto takes on Miami in Game 1 of a series Raptors fans have been waiting a long time for. And a starting lineup change as well!

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

It's the night Raptors fans have been longing for since Vince Carter's shot clanked and gave the Philadelphia 76ers a Game 7 win in 2001: Toronto finally has another crack at a second round series.

First, some pre-series reading and listening that you should definitely click on:

*Get to know the Heat with John Gaudes' hefty series preview.

*Harsh Dave has your Game 1 preview full statistical nuggets on Kyle Lowry's shooting, some of the small-ball units we may see from both sides tonight, and Hassan Whiteside's imposing presence as a rim protector.

*Lastly, check out last night's Game 7 recap / Round 2 look-ahead edition of The HeadQuarters with John Gaudes, Russell Peddle and Sean Woodley.

Pregame press conferences were largely uneventful - especially so in the case of Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had just four or five words to say: "Okay, everybody's ready to play."

That's probably in reference to the nicked up Josh Richardson (shoulder) and guard (shoulder surgery) Tyler Johnson, who had been out since late January before playing six minutes on Sunday in Miami's Game 7 win over Charlotte. Don't extrapolate Spoelstra's words to infer the return of Chris Bosh, whose rehab and attempted return from a blood clot issue has been mysterious and bizarre.

Bosh is in the house for the game tonight, but it would be an absolute shocker if he suited up given all of the uncertainty swirling around him today.

Dwane Casey spoke roughly 120 times as long as Spoelstra did (10 minutes to five seconds). Nothing groundbreaking, but he was asked about which stat might be the difference maker in this series. If you remember, turnovers were one area that Casey consistently enforced throughout the series against Indiana.

"Paint points I think is gonna be a huge difference maker," said Casey. "I think the paint points will be something that will determine how well we're playing defensively. They have some excellent drivers, hard-charging drivers attacking the paint so our one-on-one defense is gonna have to be pristine."

Casey seemed confident in the Raptors ability to do just that and limit the damage Miami does inside, even if the team's interior focus has led to some problems on the perimeter this year.

"We've put an emphasis on that the entire season, keeping a tight paint, and to our detriment, giving up some threes."

Given the frightening rolling ability of Hassan Whiteside, and the driving power of Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade, the Raptors might be best served daring the Heat to test whether or not its scorching hot shooting from deep in round one (40.6%) can sustain itself; Miami was the 27th-ranked three-point shooting team in the regular season.

That one-on-one defense Casey preached was clearly in mind when setting tonight's starting lineup. We have the third starting lineup shake-up in these playoffs for the Raptors:

A small, weird unit to start a series that will surely feature of a bounty of small, weird units.

Enjoy Game 1 and comment away!