The Miami HEAT will have a few days off as the rest of the NBA's playoff pool continues to bludgeon one another. Among the tightly contested series currently happening, the Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors are in the middle of a hotly contested matchup with a pivotal game 5 tonight set to break a 2-2 tie. Miami will face the winner of that series and I decided to take a closer look at a potential matchup with the Raptors. Stay tuned for an alternative look at the potential Brooklyn Nets matchup.
Toronto: Kyle Lowry, Greivis Vasquez
Miami: Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole
Kyle Lowry has had a breakout season for the Raptors and will get All-NBA consideration this season. He is a true two-way player with the ability to penetrate into the teeth of the defense and also possesses deep shooting range as evidenced by him firing over 6 threes per game and hitting a solid 38% this year. Lowry plays bigger than his size and will spend time guarding both point guards and even Dwyane Wade. Vasquez is no slouch either, leading the NBA in total assists last season and playing the role of 6th man and combo guard following his midseason trade to Toronto earlier this season. In the playoffs, the Raptors have opted for a two point guard lineup, similar to Miami's 2nd unit permutations, playing Lowry and Vasquez together approximately 19 minutes a game.
Neither Lowry nor Vasquez have shot well vs. the defensive minded Nets, but point guard is Toronto's biggest advantage if Toronto is to meet Miami. Chalmers has been steady this postseason and Norris Cole has restored confidence after a very shaky end to the regular season, but both of them will have to be on their A game defensively if they want to corral the Raptors duo.
Toronto: DeMar DeRozan, John Salmons
Miami: Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen
The first time All-Star DeRozan has come alive this postseason after a ghastly game 1 flop of a performance, averaging nearly 25 points per game against the Nets. He's done much of his damage at the foul line, attempting 12 free throws a game and nailing 87.5% of them. Beyond that, he has not shot the ball well and is a complete non threat from beyond the arc. The former University of Miami product Salmons is barely an NBA player at this stage and both he and the little used Landry Fields are passible defensively, but barely need to be accounted for on offense.
Dwyane Wade had a lukewarm first round of the playoffs, averaging 18 points, 3 rebounds, and 4 assists on 49% shooting. One concern is that Dwyane's midrange game has completely vanished for the 3rd consecutive postseason. Dwyane is shooting a putrid 26% on midrange shots and has taken nearly 6 of them a game this postseason (per NBA.com). Dwyane needs to simply be better in that regard as he is often the go-to scorer in the 2nd unit lineups that start the 2nd quarter. Ray Allen was a ghost in the first round, but I'm honestly not terribly concerned. He's averaged 9 points per game against the Raptors this season (on par with his season averages) and will continue to get good looks.
Toronto: Terrence Ross, Landry Fields, Steve Novak
Miami: LeBron James, James Jones, Shane Battier(?)
Not much to say here. Terrence Ross had a nice sophomore season highlighted by an unexpected 51 point explosion, but he's been horrendous this postseason, shooting 17% (not a typo). He's normally a good 3 point shooter so Miami shouldn't let a few bad games stop them from guarding him.
James Jones' return to the lineup was unexpected, but he has rewarded Erik Spoelstra's faith in him, shooting 44% from three and averaging nearly 7 points per game. The HEAT love playing with James Jones floor spacing so hopefully Spoelstra doesn't suddenly forget James Jones exists again. The Raptors have their own James Jones in Steve Novak, but he has barely sniffed the hardwood this postseason.
Oh and that LeBron guy is pretty good.
Toronto: Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough
Miami: Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis
Amir Johnson has evolved into a solid all-around player with enough skills to serve a variety of roles on both offense and defense while Patterson has become the prototypical stretch 4, with three point range to complement his penetrating guards. Both have been shooting lights out this postseason and are athletic and skilled enough to give any frontline some trouble. Psycho T will convulse his way to some offensive rebounds and fouls and continue to frustrate HEAT fans with his existence.
Chris Bosh has been no slouch shooting the ball either, hitting nearly 70% of his long range attempts this postseason. Expect some serious regression on that end, but overall expect Bosh to be more involved against his former team than he was when he had his hands full with Al Jefferson. Amir Johnson is a good player to matchup defensively with Bosh and has held Bosh in check as he averaged under 11 points per game in his four Raptor matchups this season. Rashard Lewis, in my opinion, has played himself out of the rotation and has seen very little action the last few games. He simply can't shoot 3s well enough to warrant any significant minutes. LeBron has played some power forward with smaller lineups that feature James Jones and we very well could see the return of a Battier or a Beasley into the rotation.
Toronto: Jonas Valanciunas, Chuck Hayes
Miami: Udonis Haslem, Chris Andersen
"Big V" ended his 2nd NBA season strongly and has been a force in the postseason, averaging a double double and shooting 65% from the field. Jonas has an old school back to the basket game, using a variety of jump hooks to get his own shot as well as being an effective offensive rebounder who can get 2nd chance baskets. Jonas attempts around 75% of his shots in the restricted area and Udonis Haslem will again have his hands full in corralling the lithe Lithuanian. While Hayes is listed as the backup center, expect Toronto go match Miami's small ball with Amir Johnson playing some center when Valanciunas needs a breather.
Haslem played poorly vs Charlotte and his minutes will again fluctuate depending on matchups. Chris Andersen has been his usual high energy self, soaring for dunks and cleaning up the boards, but he has not fared well as a one on one defender.
Ultimately, I think this would be a preferable series for Miami in terms of ease, but Toronto has been gutsy all season. What are your thoughts on the matchup? Feel free to leave a comment below.