Game Preview: Raptors vs. Heat

Fresh off ending a ten-game slide against the Bucks, the Raptors try and stop an even longer slump against the Miami Heat tonight at ACC (7 PM, TSN2, TSN 1050).

The Raptors have lost 11 straight meetings against the Heat, representing their longest active losing streak against an opponent. Coincidentally, their last win over the Heat back on Jan. 27, 2010 was actually the last time Toronto was two games over .500.

There’s temptation to see the reigning champs as vulnerable (as they can possibly be) at ACC tonight. Former Raptors franchise player Chris Bosh reportedly did not make the trip to Toronto after the birth of his daughter in Miami. They Heat have also uncharacteristically struggled a little bit with a split of their first four games, including a stunning loss to the Sixers and losing a close battle against a legit threat to their three-peat in the Brooklyn Nets.

There’s been talk of chemistry issues from the Heat, but they certainly looked like they were back on track in Sunday’s 103-93 win over the Wizards and they should be motivated to get back above .500 tonight.

Pivotal Stretch For Raptors

Yes, it’s very early. But tonight represents a tough start to what could wind up being a pivotal week when the story of this Raptors season is completed. Four games in the next five nights includes:

Tuesday vs. Miami
Wednesday @ Charlotte
Friday @ Pacers
Saturday vs. Jazz

Get a split or better and you’re above water heading into another tough week against the Rockets, Grizzlies and Bulls. Anything less and the Raptors are suddenly under .500 with an extremely unforgiving November/December slate of games and general manager Masai Ujiri openly admitting that he’s evaluating what he’s got on the floor right now.

Ball Movement Big For Raptors, Heat

Sharing the basketball has been a big factor for both of these teams in this young season.

For the Raptors, ball movement has been a problem. Only four teams average fewer assists than their 16.3 per game, although they’re coming off a season-high 19 assists in a win over Milwaukee.

“We should be moving the ball whether we’re playing Miami or Ryerson University,” said head coach Dwane Casey when asked if ball movement becomes more important against an opponent like Miami on Monday.

For the Heat, 25 seems to be the magic number when it comes to assists. Miami is 54-3 in the James/Wade/Bosh era when their assists surpass that total and in Sunday’s win over the Wizards, a whopping 32 of their 37 made field goals were assisted. One of the three losses? That season-opening stunner at the hands of the Sixers, where they racked up 30 assists in defeat.

Getting After It On The Glass

The Raptors have been outstanding on the glass this season, with league-best marks in total rebounds per game (50) and offensive rebounds per game (15.6). Not surprisingly, that’s resulted in the Raptors also leading the league in second-chance points per game (21.3) and according to Raptors Media Relations, 22.5 per cent of the Raptors’ offence has come off second-chance opportunities.

Saturday’s win in Milwaukee saw the Raptors finish one rebound short of the team record for a regulation time game with 60. Rudy Gay was a huge part of that with career-highs in defensive rebounds (13) and total rebounds (15) — his fourth 10+ rebounding effort since joining the Raptors.

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