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Game #74: Toronto Raptors (35-36) vs. Miami Heat (39-34)

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The Heat has picked the absolute best time of year to peak.  As far as I'm concerned, the first 50-60 games of the season might as well be considered an extended training camp, because now they figured out that to succeed they need to have a tighter rotation that does not include Daequan Cook and that keeps Mario Chalmers away from handling the ball as much as possible. 

A big key to the Heat's success this season is derived from their team defense.  The key number is 90 points.  Miami is 24-2 in games where they hold their opponent to 90 or less.  They are ranked 2nd in the NBA giving up an average of just 94.2 points/game.  It also helps that they have cracked 100 points in 8 of their 13 games in the month of March, going 7-1 in those 8 games. 

The way that Dwyane Wade has been playing lately is something special.  He isn't just looking to score, but he is doing whatever is necessary to help his team get wins.  In his last five games he has averaged ‘just' 23.8 points but has been producing in other ways, grabbing 6.8 rebounds and adding 9.0 assists and 2.0 blocks.   Dwyane knows exactly what he is doing, too.  Said Wade:

"This time of the year, you can go out there and score 50 and your scoring average will only move up a tenth of a point; it don't matter right now.  I'm just trying to be a complete player, do what I can to help the team win and get the highest seed possible."

Meanwhile, Toronto is doing everything they can to hold on to the 8th and final playoff spot in the East.  While they have been struggling, going just 4-9 in the month of March, they lucked out in that the team chasing them is Chicago, who just finished going through an 0-10 stretch.  However, the Bulls have now won 3 of 4 so Toronto's lead is down to just 1½ games.  The Raptors are also starting a brief, but difficult, 2-game road trip that takes them trough Miami and Charlotte.

PLAYER NOTES

  • Jermaine O'Neal is listed as questionable and will likely be a game-time decision.  He visited with Heat doctors on Saturday and no additional damage to his hyperextended right knee was revealed.  Said J-O:

"I felt like I just got pushed, and went down from there.  We'll see what happens.  Your body feels one way one day and then feel another way the next."

  • Since going 6-of-12 from beyond the arc against Charlotte, Quentin Richardson has made just 2-of-14 from three point range. 
  • In his last four games, Michael Beasley is shooting 42.8% from the field and grabbing just 4.7 boards/game.  Don't blame it on minutes; he's played over 30 in 4 of the last 5 games.  Remember when he was always active and seemed like a rebounding beast? 
  • Udonis Haslem has become that rebound beast in the month of March, averaging 10.5 boards in the 12 games he's played.  He's grabbed 10 or more in 7 of those 12 games, including 4 double doubles, bringing his season total to 16. 
  • Carlos Arroyo has quietly taken hold of the Heat's offense.  In his last 3 games, he has played 42, 36 and 41 minutes, shooting 46.6% from the field and dishing out 5 assists/game.  The increased minutes have lead to more turnovers though; in those three games he's averaging 2.0.  Still a low number, but that's high for him. 

GAME NOTES

  • This is the 4th and final meeting between Miami and Toronto this season, with the Raptors leading 2-1.  Each team has won their games at home.
  • The Heat has held their last four opponents to under 40% shooting.  If they can do it tonight, it will tie a franchise record. 
  • Chris Bosh is averaging 27.0 points and 10.7 rebounds against Miami this season but has been struggling of late, turning the ball over 19 times over his last 4 games.
  • Miami comes in winning 7 of their last 9 games at the AAA.  
  • A win would put the Heat 6 games over .500 for the first time this season.  The last time they were 5 games over was on November 14th when they were 7-2.
  • Toronto has lost 6 of their last 8 away from the Air Canada Centre.
  • Miami is 10-3 so far in the month of March, still with 2 games remaining (tonight vs. TOR, Wednesday @ DET).  The last time the Heat won this many games in a month was in 2007, ironically also in March, when they went 11-4.
  • Hedo Turkoglu (flu) is questionable for the Raptors after missing their last game on Friday against Denver, and Antoine Wright (ankle) is probable.  Wright recently replaced rookie DeMar DeRozan in Toronto's starting lineup. 

Tipoff from the AAA is set for 6pm.  I'm excited because I actually get to watch this one!  Granted, it will be on a slight DVR-delay...but at least I get to see the whole thing from the comfort of my couch on my 'home court' T.V.  Lets go Heat!!!