It was a tough stretch on the road for the Toronto Raptors, but they’re back home tonight to face the Miami Heat for the THIRD time this season.
You may remember the first match-up — Christian Koloko getting tackled into the stands by Caleb Martin and then getting ejected? The Raptors ended up losing that game 112-109 after coming back from a 20+ point defecit.
The next game, just two days later, was a fight to the finish for both teams. It was Precious Achiuwa, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam who rose as the stars for the Raptors to win that game 98-90. Achiuwa finished the game with 22 rebounds, VanVleet with 24 points, and Siakam with 23 points.
Now, it’s possible that the Raptors will have to go without all three of those players tonight as they all struggle with injury or illness.
Siakam and Precious have both already been ruled OUT. Siakam suffered a groin injury against the Dallas Mavericks weeks ago that has caused him to be out indefinitely. Achiuwa was injured in a recent game against the Houston Rockets, and later diagnosed with partial ligament tears in his right ankle.
Fred VanVleet has missed the past few games due to a non-COVID illness. He is questionable for tonight’s game.
The Raptors injury list continues with Otto Porter Jr. being ruled OUT with a dislocated toe, and Gary Trent Jr. being questionable with a hip injury. There has been speculation that Scottie Barnes is also struggling with an injury, but as of right now he is not on the list.
Looking at Raptors players available tomorrow like#WeTheNorth #NBA @Raptors https://t.co/oF0qcaW5Bx pic.twitter.com/FG9NJacCxl— Raptors Reviewer Jake (@RaptorsComment) November 15, 2022
As for the Heat, Victor Oladipo (knee), and Omer Yurtseven (ankle) are both OUT indefinitely. Tyler Herro (ankle) and Udonis Haslem (personal) are both also OUT.
Catch the Toronto Raptors take on the Miami Heat Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. on Sportsnet.
Next Man Up Mentality
The Raptors’ last game in Detroit showcased a very different lineup than the one we are used to. Starting for Toronto was Dalano Banton, Scottie Barnes, O.G. Anunoby, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr.
It ended up being Dalano Banton who rose to the occasion, scoring a career high 27 points and being a big reason the team secured the win.
Rexdale’s Finest— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 15, 2022
Open Gym: Moment presented by @Bell pic.twitter.com/sJWy7KeSSH
Thaddeus Young also had a great game for the Raptors in his starting position. Though his 6/4/6 stat line isn’t all that exciting, his impact as a veteran presence on the floor was seen through his ability to find his teammates for looks.
With Porter Jr. now out with that toe injury, and VanVleet questionable to return, the starting lineup will have to shift once more. Even if Fred VanVleet returns, Nick Nurse may opt to still start Dalano Banton along with VanVleet, and go with a smaller lineup.
Otto Porter Jr. dislocated his toe during last night's win in Detroit. The Raptors have already ruled him out for tomorrow's game vs Miami.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 15, 2022
Siakam and Achiuwa remain out, as well. VanVleet and Trent are listed as questionable.
Another option would be to start VanVleet in place of Dalano, and replace Porter Jr. with Christian Koloko. A bigger lineup may help when defending Miami Heat star Bam Adebayo.
Whatever the starting lineup ends up being, it’ll be different from what the Raptors have grown used to. Whoever gets called up will have to make the most of the opportunity just like Banton did on Monday.
Defending the Heat
Miami is a strong offensive team, with Kyle Lowry, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo making it rain from all over the court. Of course, they’ll be missing their sharp-shooter in Tyler Herro, but the Heat do not lack depth when it comes to shooters. Expect them to go to Duncan Robinson and Max Strus to make up for Herro’s absence.
UPDATE: Tyler Herro (ankle) and Udonis Haslem (personal reasons) are both not traveling with the team today to Toronto.— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 15, 2022
Defence will be key here in every position. O.G. Anunoby has been playing at a Defensive Player of the Year calibre, but he’ll have to make sure to avoid foul trouble against Bam and Butler.
If VanVleet makes a return, he could help contain his former teammate and mentor Kyle Lowry from going off too much. We all know how much Kyle Lowry loves to play in Toronto.
Missing Precious “Miami Heat Killer” Achiuwa will be a tough break for the Raptors, but hopefully the improving Christian Koloko, along with Chris Boucher, can take over on the glass.
GET THAT UT OF HERE pic.twitter.com/R0c39hbplK— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 15, 2022
No matter what, containing this team offensively will help the Raptors’ chances of winning. Miami hasn’t had the easiest ride this season either, they’ve struggled with chemistry and closing out. If the Raptors’ can capitalize on that, they could pull out the win and the season series against Miami.
Scottie’s Sophomore Slump
It’s kind of the elephant in the room. Some people are deeply concerned, others think it’s bound to happen. The reigning Rookie of the Year hasn’t been playing his best on either end of the court. Whether it’s because he is secretly struggling with an injury, or is just in his head, is unknown.
What we do know is that the kid is built different. A lot of responsibility has been placed onto him, especially with Siakam and VanVleet in and out of the lineup. I think people forget that he’s only 21, and that it’s only his second year in the league. Slumps happen, and personally I don’t think it’s much to worry about.
Could he be playing better? Yes. Should we all panic? No, chill fam.
Best case scenario is that he gets out of whatever slump he’s been in mentally. Worst case is that he actually does have a lingering injury that’s impacting his play. We should all be HOPING he’s just having a couple bad weeks and will bounce back soon.
Regardless, we know he’s a generational talent. He’ll recover soon and be back to the Scottie we know and love. Maybe even tonight, against his hometown Miami Heat team.
You can watch the Toronto Raptors play the Miami Heat tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Sportsnet.