Neither the Toronto Raptors nor the Miami Heat look like they're going to be able to repeat as division champions. It's safe to say, however, that the Heat's title defense has been far more disappointing.
After taking over the worst record in the league, the Heat look to avoid their 19th loss in 20 games on Monday when they host the Raptors, who remain one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Toronto won its first division title in franchise history by finishing 47-35 in the Atlantic last season. The Raptors (25-21) have put together a solid follow-up campaign and are currently one of only six winning teams in the East, but the success of division rival Boston has relegated Toronto to a distant second place - 12 games behind the Celtics.
The Heat (9-36), meanwhile, have suffered a far more precipitous downfall. They won their first NBA title in 2006 and third consecutive Southeast Division title last season, but they're currently mired in last place in the league - a half-game behind Minnesota.
"To me, it's trying to play 48 minutes of consistent, team-oriented, unselfish - on both ends of the court - basketball," said Heat coach Pat Riley, whose team's only win since Christmas was a 98-96 victory over Indiana on Jan. 26. "You try to strive for that, and we just play the game in segments. It's almost as though every time we do something offensively, it's got to be a home run. It can't be simple. It can't be just moving the ball."
Miami All-Star guard Dwyane Wade returned from a one-game absence because of the flu on Friday, but the Heat lost 94-85 to New Jersey despite Wade's 15 points, seven rebounds and six assists - all team highs.
"I think the toughest part is looking forward for the next 30 games and what are we looking forward to," Wade said. "I'm used to going into games feeling great and feeling very confident. Now you just go into games and you don't know what to expect from one minute to the next."
The Raptors are coming off a 121-101 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers. Chris Bosh had 22 points and 15 rebounds, but shot just 7-for-22 from the field. He was averaging 29.3 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 58.0 percent in his previous 10 games.
Bosh, though, got plenty of help from second-year center Andrea Bargnani, who had a career-high 28 points while shooting 9-for-18, including 4-for-7 from 3-point range. Bargnani has had a frustrating sophomore season after finishing second to Portland's Brandon Roy in last year's Rookie of the Year voting.
Despite opening the season with a more prominent role in Toronto's offense, the 2006 No. 1 overall pick is averaging 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds and shooting 38.6 percent from the field - all below his 2006-07 numbers.
Raptors coach Sam Mitchell hopes Friday's performance is a sign that Bargnani is turning a corner.
"He's got that little look back in his eyes and he's starting to get his confidence back," Mitchell said. "The thing I like is that he didn't settle every time. He drove to the basket, had four dunks on drives over people and we need him to continue to do that."
The Heat have dominated the series with the Raptors, winning 30 of 43 all-time meetings - including 14 of the last 18.
Part of Miami's success against Toronto is due to Wade, who has topped 30 points in each of his last four games against the Raptors. He's averaging 34.8 points, 5.8 assists and 5.0 rebounds while shooting 58.7 percent in that stretch.
Bosh, picked one spot ahead of Wade in the 2003 draft, is averaging 21.0 points and 11.3 rebounds in his last six games against the Heat.
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