The Miami Heat (38-27) improved to 9-3 since the end of the All-Star break without Chris Bosh in their impressive win on the road against the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. Led by a breakout game from rookie Josh Richardson, who singlehandedly outscored the Bulls in the fourth quarter 16-15, the Heat were able to get valuable contributions from several players stepping up on both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter.
On the second night of a back-to-back, the Heat will be counting on turning in a similar complete performance from the team -- albeit throughout the game -- to counter a Toronto Raptors team that has only lost once at home in the past 15 games. Toronto (43-20, 25-7 at home) had their way with Miami in their last meeting on January 22 when they won 101-81, though the Heat were without Goran Dragic, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside -- the three players primarily most responsible for leading the team through what was expected to have been a difficult transitionary period without Bosh.
Dragic has thrived with the ball in his hands to power the Heat's quicker pace and was ultra-aggressive attacking the basket last night against the Bulls. Deng has also thrived in his move to power forward and Whiteside has been excellent off the bench. Combined with the steadiness of Joe Johnson and the rapidly-improving rookie duo of Justise Winslow and Richardson, Miami should be able to stay competitive against the Raptors even with Dwyane Wade (nine points on 3-of-15 shooting) clearly hobbled by a thigh bruise that limited him in Chicago, though he did manage to play through it despite missing shootaround earlier in the day.
Toronto's rise in the East this season has been fueled by their defense, allowing 98.3 points from the opposition, which is good for fifth in the NBA (indeed, the team has improved their record in each of their last five seasons). Can the Heat's newfound offensive resurgence in which they've surpassed 100 points in 11 of their 13 games since the All-Star break.
GameTime: 7:00 PM, NBA TV, NBA TV Canada, FS-SUN
Heat: Chris Bosh and Tyler Johnson (shoulder) are out.
Raptors: DeMarre Carroll (right knee) remains sidelined after surgery but is close to returning.
Probable Starting Lineups
PG - Goran Dragic
SG - Dwyane Wade
C - Amar'e Stoudemire
SF - Joe Johnson
PF - Luol Deng
PG - Kyle Lowry
SG - Norman Powell
C - Jonas Valanciunas
SF - DeMar DeRozan
PF - Luis Scola