Hello All, ---Pause for standing ovation--- In honor of Wednesday night’s State of the Union… ---Applause--- Address… ---Applause--- I will try to keep this brief. Wednesday night, the Heat (23-21) will be in Toronto (23-22) to take on the Raptors, who used a 5 game winning streak to close out 2009 to get them back into the hunt for the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors now loom large in Miami’s rearview mirror. ---Pause for applause--- The Heat meanwhile will have to overcome not only the gut punch loss sustained against Cleveland Monday night but also the sheer misery of being unable to take in President Obama’s full speech. ---Pause for applause--- (Wow, that was the fastest one of my gimmicks ever wore out its welcome) PROJECTED STARTERS Heat Raptors PG Alston J. Jack SG Wade D. Derozan SF Richardson H. Turkoglu PF Beasley C. Bosh C O’Neal A. Bargnani The Raptors have a lineup highlighted by a very athletic front line. Bosh is obviously one of the best big men in the league, and Bargnani drags an interior defender away from the basket. Turkoglu is versatile but has been unhappy this season after leaving Orlando, where he had more playmaking responsibility, and his effort has been inconsistent. When he shows up, as he did against the Lakers in the Raptors’ recent victory, he is still a major factor. Jack is a versatile, physical point guard and Derozan is the weak link, albeit a weak link with hue potential. STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN (via Statsheet.com; 1/26/10) Effective Field Goal % The Heat is 18th in the league at 49.4%; the Raptors are 7th at 51.2%. EDGE: Raptors Turnover % The Heat is 2nd in the league at 12.7%; the Raptors are 6th at 13.3%. EDGE: Heat Offensive Rebound % The Heat is 17th in the league at 25.7%; the Raptors are 23rd at 24.8%. EDGE: Heat Free Throw Rate The Heat is 15th in the league at 30.9%; the Raptors are 2nd at 35.3%. EDGE: Raptors (BIG) Well, if you were to believe the statistics, the Raptors may be the biggest underachievers in the league. More on the statistics in a second. KEY TO THE GAME As I said, the Raptors have a very versatile front line. It can also be their weakness. They lack in the toughness category, and the Heat excels there when they want to. The one spot where the Heat has a clear advantage is in rebounding (see the stats above), and in order to win the game the Heat will have to exploit this. It also will not help the Raptors to match up DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Jack and whoever else on Wade. Wade will get his usual production, most likely more, but it will be for naught if the Heat are unable to control the boards against a physically weaker team. Always guard the inbound passer.