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Raptors look for 6 in a row, welcome Kyle Lowry and the Heat: Preview, start time, and more

In the last match-up between the Raptors and Heat this season, Kyle Lowry will finally play his old team in what should be a memorable night.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a long time coming, but Kyle Lowry will play in the ScotiaBank Arena for the first time in another jersey.

In the lead up to this season, many of the Toronto Raptors faithful didn’t know what to expect out of a Kyle Lowry-less roster. The questions were plenty. How will Fred VanVleet look without his mentor and back court running mate? Will Pascal Siakam officially take the throne as The Guy? Are the players returning in the trade enough to eventually fill a Lowry sized hole? Lowry was the engine and hub of the team for 8 years and his imprint on the franchise would be gigantic.

But with his absence came an opportunity. Fred VanVleet has slipped right into his spot with spectacular results. He’s posted career high’s across the board and was named to his first (of hopefully many) All-Star team. His leadership both on and off the court is apparent. All those #LOWRYTIME moments, VanVleet’s personal 15-0 run against Utah, Friday night’s 13 points in the third against Orlando, not to mention inheriting Lowry’s own transition pull up threes, are showing Fred as a more than capable player to push the Raptors in the post-Lowry era. Toronto will never forget Lowry, who is the greatest Raptor of all time, but the ones he mentored and helped usher in are making histories for themselves, and this is just the first chapter.

Tonight’s game against the Miami Heat is sure to be an emotional one. The Raptors are riding a 5-game win streak and have won 11 of 13 while the Heat have are recovering from a recent 4-game losing streak and are on the second night of a back to back. That doesn’t matter in a game like this. Both teams are jockeying for playoff position. Here are the details for tonight’s contest.

Betting Line:

At the time of this writing, the Raptors are slight favourites against Miami.

Where to Watch:

SportsNet, 7:00PM EST

Lineups:

Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam

Miami – Kyle Lowry, Max Strus, Jimmy Butler, P.J. Tucker, Bam Adebayo

Injuries:

Toronto — Malachi Flynn (hamstring - out), Yuta Watanabe (quad – questionable)

Miami – Max Strus (shoulder - questionable), Gabe Vincent (toe – questionable), Caleb Martin (calf - questionable)

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The Race for ROY

There are just 5 games remaining in the season and voters for the awards are making their picks. Scottie Barnes has put together a string of impressive outings since returning from the All-Star break. In the 20 games, he’s averaging close to 18 points, 8 rebounds, while shooting 54% from the field. With the Raptors overtaking Cleveland in the standings for 6th, Barnes’ recent play has put him in a great position to overtake Evan Mobley for Rookie of the Year honors.

With Cade Cunningham, Mobley, and Barnes, there is an argument to be made for all 3. Co-Rookie of the Year has happened 3 times in NBA history. The first time was In the 1970-71 season with Geoff Petrie and Dave Cowens. The second time was in the 1994-95 season, won by Jason Kidd and Grant Hill. The last time it happened was at the turn of the millennium, in the 1999-00 season with Steve Francis and Elton Brand. It’s a rare thing to happen, and not once was it between 3 players. I’m rooting for Barnes but any of them would be a deserving winner.

Locked In

The top of the standings in the Eastern Conference is a bloodbath. 4 teams are fighting for the top seed (or in some cases, dropping to avoid an uncharacteristically good potential 8 or 7 seed Brooklyn Nets) with a week remaining in the season. Boston, who before winning against Indiana on Friday night had lost 2 straight, are a different team with the absence of Robert Williams who was lost for up to 6 weeks with a knee injury. Miami have shown some cracks recently but are putting it together. Giannis and the Bucks are the reigning champs.

Even in the bottom half, the teams in the play-in spot, Cleveland, Brooklyn, Charlotte, and Atlanta, are all fighting to make or stay in 7 and 8 for the opportunity of two chances to advance. With just a few games remaining, every game matters just a little bit more.

PascALL-NBA Siakam

The bounce back season for Pascal Siakam has been incredible. He’s been all over the place defensively, made some clutch and timely baskets all season, and the most important part of the whole thing? He’s playing with joy. The Raptors have hit the over on the win total again, and Siakam has been a huge reason for that.

All-NBA voting this season should be simple, but it never is. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid have been playing at MVP levels all season which makes it difficult for one of them to be on the 2nd team. The season-long improvement of Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum coupled with the missed games of Lebron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant, make selecting 1st and second team a little bit harder.

One thing is certain: Pascal Siakam deserves a place. He is one of seven players averaging 20+ points, 8+ rebounds, and 5+ assists, while impacting both sides of the ball. Thanks to Siakam’s play, Toronto is making a late season push for a home court advantage in the 1st round, something that would be unheard of at the start of the season. He was snubbed from the All-Star game. Let’s not make the same mistake with an All-NBA team.

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