Raptors fans wake up this morning asking: “Was it worth it”?
Heading home from Brooklyn, the Raptors go into the second game of a back-to-back on tired legs from an OT victory against the Nets. And they enter tonight’s game without one of their leaders due to a nasty fall from a herculean rebounding effort.
Waiting for them is an invigorated and rested Miami Heat team that has won their last four matchups and seven of their last 10 and has only played three games in the span of six days. The Raptors will also be set to see the newly validated James “I just signed a fat, 4 yr. $60M contract this offseason” Johnson.
Here are the rest of the details for tonight’s showdown.
Where to Watch
TSN 1/4, 7:30pm
Toronto - Delon Wright, DeMar DeRozan, OG Anunoby, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas
Miami - Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Hassan Whiteside
Toronto - Kyle Lowry (back spasms)
Miami - Dion Waiters, Justise Winslow, Okaro White, A.J. Hammons, Rodney McGruder
Watch the Tired Legs
In what will be the first meeting between the two Eastern Conference teams this season, expect to see heavier minutes from the second unit as Casey had to lean on Serge Ibaka (38 minutes) and DeMar DeRozan (42 minutes) heavily in order to secure last night’s 114-113 win. This is where the Raptors depth can presumably help them, as they’ve been able to go 11 or 12 players deep into their rotation for much of the season. Not having Lowry is a huge loss, but Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet have shown they can play. And don’t forget about Norman Powell.
Miami, meanwhile, is not without their own issues and injured starters, as they are missing two key cogs in their lineup in Justice Winslow and Dion Waiters. Both are not travelling with the team and will miss tonight’s game. This is both good (because the Raps won’t have to worry about Winslow’s hounding defense) and bad (we don’t get to see the Dion Show).
Once Again: Jonas vs. Hassan
Look out for a key matchup tonight between Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside. Both big men thrive on playing against each other and, in general, against people their own size. And they have some history.
For the season, Whiteside is having something of a down year, averaging 14 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Still, he’s shooting 56 percent from the field, and is always hunting for his next dunk victim.
At the same time, Valanciunas is putting up 11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks per game, which is something of a down year for him. His role with the Raptors has fluctuated depending on matchups (see last night, when the Nets went small and fast and Casey had to take JV out). But against an old school bruiser like Whiteside, Jonas will have something important to do.
Raptors fans know full well what Goran Dragic is capable of by now. He’s the guy who did everything he could to oust the Raptors from the playoffs two seasons ago. He’s still that guy, even if his numbers are down a bit this year — e.g. 16.7 points per game compared to 20.3 last year. Much like Lowry, Dragic is a guy who gets up and down the court and uses guile, rather than supreme athleticism, to get the job done.
The unfortunate bit here, again, is that the Raptors will be without Lowry tonight. There’s nothing official from the Raps’ medical staff as of yet, but Lowry did leave Brooklyn in a wheelchair, so it seems incredibly unlikely he’ll play tonight. That means Wright and VanVleet (and maybe OG and Norm) will be tasked with keeping Dragic in check. A tall order? Maybe.