The Miami Heat face a challenge in Toronto to prove they deserve to be in the playoffs this season. How can they defeat the Raptors on their own home court?
Interestingly, Toronto has the least amount of assists and the worst assist percentage on made baskets in the NBA. However they lead the league in mid-range jump shooting and unassisted 2-point field goal percentages. Raptors excel in setting screens, since they have the highest conversion rate of baskets made off of screens in the league. In other words, they’re a throwback to the NBA before the 3-point line.
DeMar DeRozan leads the Raptors in scoring with 36 PPG, with Kyle Lowry and Jonas Valanciunas as the only other double-digit scorers at 19 and 16 each. Beyond those three players the scoring is anemic, as shown by Toronto having the least productive bench in the NBA at 22 PPG this season. By contrast, the Heat have 5 players averaging double-digit scoring.
Miami’s rotation players scored 28 PPG in the same 17.5 minutes per game. For the first four games Miami’s bench outscored Toronto’s bench by an average of six points. A key for this game might be simply playing the Raptors’ starters to a draw and letting the Heat’s bench win the game.
Who should Miami use to stop DeRozan from scoring his insane amount of points? The answer may come from the defensive ratings of the Heat players, which comes as a surprise.
The defensive ratings among players who were in all four games comes doesn’t pass the eye test, but here they are:
Dion Waiters, 93.1
Luke Babbitt, 95.1
Goran Dragic, 98.2
Hassan Whiteside, 98.5
James Johnson, 101.6
Justise Winslow, 103.0
Rodney McGruder, 104.4
Tyler Johnson, 105.2
Willie Reed, 105.6
The offensive ratings are another surprise:
Luke Babbitt, 107.1
Hassan Whiteside, 106.0
Justise Winslow, 105.4
Goran Dragic, 102.1
Rodney McGruder, 99.2
Dion Waiters, 95.7
James Johnson, 89.7
Tyler Johnson, 89.2
If clutch scoring by committee is the new mantra this season, these figures seem weird. Something has to be going on that goes against the common sense eye test.
Heat has a 10-point edge beyond the arc at 38% to 28% because Raptors are one of worst long-range teams in the NBA, even with making 10 of their 25 attempts versus the Wizards. Miami’s leading sharpshooters are Goran Dragic (52%), Tyler Johnson (50%), Dion Waiters (43%), Rodney McGruder (43%,) and Luke Babbitt (38%). Quite frankly, it’s amazing that Babbitt is fifth on the team in 3FG% so far. Oddly, the trio of Waiters, McGruder and Babbitt all have a higher 3-point FG% than 2-point FG%.
Willie Reed leads the Heat in FG% at 71%, with Hassan Whiteside second at 60%. Giving Reed some minutes at power forward alongside Whiteside might be an intriguing concept to utilize Reed’s high FG% and wear out a center like Valanciunas by having to guard two bigs in the paint all by himself. Basically Jonas won’t be able to focus on stopping only Hassan at the rim.
As a note, Whiteside leads the NBA in rebounding, averaging more per game than Andre Drummond. At this pace Hassan’s chances to make the All-Star team seem good.
One stat, which illustrates how different the teams are, is the FG% between 10-14 feet from the basket: Miami is a league-worst 16% (only team under 20%), while Toronto is second best at 53%. The outcome may depend on which team can impose their style of play on the game.