Game Preview: Raptors at Heat
The Raptors are in Miami looking for their fourth straight victory after a thrilling 122-120 overtime victory against the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday. The win against the Bulls wasn't just Toronto's third in a row, but the first in 12 tries against Chicago. DeMar DeRozan led the way in a heated battle, scoring 42 points to go with seven rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a blocked shot. The Heat come into Thursday's game looking for a second straight win, having won against the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday.
Tip-off: 7:30 P.M. ET
Broadcast info: SN1 / SN590
Shorthanded against Heat
With Tuesday's victory against the Bulls, the Raptors moved to 9-5 without Kyle Lowry this season. They'll try to make that 10-5 when they take on Miami on Thursday as their All-Star continues rehabbing post wrist surgery.
"I'd take that any any point," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said of how the team has fared in his absence. "Again we've got some tough games to go, it's not over with yet, we don't know when he comes back and again. Like Coach Pitino said, nobody is walking through that door. It's us so we have to go out and fight and scrap and claw."
The Raptors will also be down another man in Miami. Serge Ibaka will not be in uniform after being handed a one-game suspension by the NBA for his part in an on-court altercation with Chicago's Robin Lopez on Tuesday. Ibaka will return to the court in Saturday's game against the Dallas Mavericks.
Miami's Hassan Whiteside is listed as probable for Thursday's game after needing 13 stitches to close a laceration on his right hand after the Heat's victory against the Suns. The team will evaluate him on Thursday before making a decision on his availability.
Looking to finish strong
While the Raptors are looking to finish the regular season on a strong note, the Heat need to in order to have a postseason. After starting the season 11-30, the Heat are currently in the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, thanks to a red-hot stretch beginning in mid-January.
Miami is 24-6 since Jan. 17th, but are dealing with the loss of Dion Waiters who suffered an ankle sprain in the Heat's recent win against the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier in the week. The South Florida Sun-sentinel reported that Waiters is hoping to be back before the end of the season.
In Toronto's victory against Chicago on Tuesday, even before the final buzzer sounded, Dwane Casey was proud of his team for the way they bounced back from a 15-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter.
"Win, lose or draw I thought we were scrapping, competing and that's all you can ask for of your team this time of year is to play that way," Casey said. "We found the group that was going to go in there and fight, scrap and give yourself a chance to win. We didn't give ourselves a chance to win in the first three quarters, we gave ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter."
The Raptors were defeated 104-89 by the Heat in the last meeting between the two teams nearly two weeks ago. The loss capped a disappointing finish to a five-game road trip where Toronto dropped the final two games before returning to Toronto to get back on track.
Dion Waiters led the way for the Heat in the victory, scoring 20 points. Miami's leading scorer for the season, Goran Dragic, was out for nearly the entire second half after colliding with Cory Joseph's elbow and suffering a swollen eye. The Raptors struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor in the loss, recording an NBA low for team assists this season with just seven in the game.
The ball has been moving better in recent days for the Raptors. In Tuesday's victory, DeMar DeRozan himself recorded eight assists, surpassing the team assist total in that loss to the Heat. In addition to the assists, DeRozan also had seven rebounds and a crucial steal and blocked time in crunch time to help the Raptors complete their comeback.
"We needed everything," he said. "Every scrap that we could pull out of there, it wasn't about plays at that point, it was more so who wanted it more. We all did a collective effort of putting in and doing our part."
As the games add up without Lowry and their opponents also strive to finish the season strong, the Raptors will need more of everyone giving everything that they can.