With seven games left in the NBA regular season, it’s crunch time for the Raptors to solidify their spot in the NBA Play-In tournament. They currently sit in the 9th spot in the Eastern Conference, with a record of 37-38. Just above them is the Atlanta Hawks, and right above them is their next opponent — the Miami Heat.
The Heat are seventh in the East with a record of 40-35, desperate to inch out of the Play-In and straight to the first round of the playoffs. While it doesn’t seem like catching up to the Heat is possible for Toronto, beating them in this match up is an essential step to surpassing the Hawks and securing home court advantage in the Play-In.
After Miami, four of the Raptors remaining six games are against teams who are currently seeded 1-3 in the East. Every win is essential, but might as well try and get one from a team who has also had a turbulent season.
In terms of injuries, the Heat will be missing Nikola Jovic for sure as he struggles with a back injury and did not travel with the team. Also on the injury list is Former-Raptor Kyle Lowry, who is currently listed as Day-to-Day.
On the Raptors’ side, Will Barton is listed as Day-to-Day with an ankle injury. Gary Trent Jr. remains questionable with an elbow injury, as Ron Harper Jr. is also Day-to-Day. Dalano Banton is out with a thumb injury, and Joe Wieksamp is still listed as out.
The Raptors most recently beat the Washington Wizards 114-104 on Sunday, thanks to impressive performances from Fred VanVleet and O.G. Anunoby. VanVleet finished with 28 points, seven assists and four rebounds, while Anunoby scored 29 points, one assist and eight rebounds.
They also got Scottie Barnes back after he was out with a wrist injury, and he had a good night with 13 points, six assists and five rebounds. If he continues to get healthy, the next stretch of games will be a great opportunity to continue to develop as a young player.
Despite the less than ideal season for the Miami Heat, they still have a ton of talent that the Raptors will have to overcome. Bam Adebayo continues to develop as an All-Star center, averaging 20.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists on the season. Jimmy Butler will surely put on a performance in an attempt to bring his team into the playoffs. The Raptors need to continue the winning ways of the last two games.
It looks like Precious Achiuwa will be in the lineup, and he always seems to put on a performance against his former team when he is healthy. He was drafted by Miami in 2020, played his rookie season there, and then was traded as part of the Kyle Lowry deal to Toronto. He’s blossomed over the past two seasons here, but struggled with injury this year. If Nurse goes to him, and he does well, he could make a serious impact on this game.
This will also be the last home game in Toronto before the Raptors go on a road trip to end the season. They will play one more game (their final of the season) in Toronto against Milwaukee, but not before travelling to Philadelphia, Charlotte for a pair, and then Boston for a pair. Every win will count.
Catch the Toronto Raptors play the Miami Heat Tuesday evening at 7:30pm on TSN.