The Heat have beaten the Raptors six straight times, including a 95-89 victory in early February. LeBron James scored 30 points in that meeting, and he's averaging 28.6 points in his last 13 games against Toronto.
Miami could be dealing with a fatigue issue since they played last night, but I'm not expecting it to be much of an issue. Look for LeBron, D-Wade and Co. to be crisp from the opening tip.
Where: Air Canada Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: Friday March 30, 7 PM EST
Watch: TSN2 will have the TV coverage, or you can watch the live stream online via NBA League Pass
Will the Heat cover the spread?
Listen: Toronto—FAN590 Miami—790 The Ticket
Betting Line: Miami -7.5 according to sbgglobal.com
Miami: LeBron James (finger), day-to-day; Mike Miller (ankle), out
Toronto: Jerryd Bayless (oblique), out
What They're Saying:
No offense to the Raptors, but there are more important storylines surrounding the Heat than this particular regular-season game. Andre C. Fernandez of the Miami Herald writes that Steve Nash could be joining the Heat in the offseason.
Nash, likely to be one of the top free agents after the season, said if he left Phoenix he would be receptive to joining LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh next season in a move that would fill what is still considered by many to be an area of need on the team.
“I would listen,” Nash told Dan Patrick. “He’s phenomenal. I love what they’re doing there. A lot of people don’t like them because they put all that talent there. But they’re professional, they play hard, they play together. Their coaching staff has done a great job, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for them.”
Meanwhile, Matthew Scianitti of the National Post notes that turnovers will be key in Friday's matchup.
When asked how the Raptors should stop the Miami Heat on Friday night, when the South Beach powerhouse makes its only visit to the Air Canada Centre this season, [Dwane] Casey said if Toronto’s minds and hands wander it will be too easy for Chris Bosh, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
“You have to take care of the ball, number one,” he said. “If you make phantom passes or automatic passes against Miami, they are one of the best in the league in turning your turnovers over, and scoring in an instant.”
Miami is forcing 17.0 turnovers a game, third in the league; Toronto is giving the ball up 15.3 times a game, better than only eight teams.
“You turn it over, it’s death, so you’ve got to make sure you take care of the ball,” Casey said. “Get a good shot, as best you can in half-court play. And then turn and sprint back."
Heat Player to Watch: LeBron James, SF
LeBron might be having the best regular season of his career, but his MVP campaign took a serious hit Monday when he dislocated the ring finger on his non-shooting hand.
He was still able to play last night against Dallas, and put up 19 points, nine rebounds and five assists while shooting 50 percent from the field. The finger didn't appear to hamper him too much, but we'll see what happens if it gets hit in the coming days.
Raptors Player to Watch: Andrea Bargnani, PF/C
Wednesday, Bargnani made up for a 3-of-11 effort against Orlando by dropping 26 points on the Nuggets. He hit 10 of his 12 free throws and shot 50 percent from the field, including two huge threes late in the fourth quarter.
Bargnani missed the last game against Miami when he was nursing a calf injury. You can expect his presence to have a major impact on tonight's meeting.
Key Matchup: Dwyane Wade vs DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan is one of the most talented young shooting guards in the league, but this is an incredibly tough matchup for him. Wade's strength and experience gives him a decisive advantage over the 22-year-old.
In the first meeting, they played to a draw as each put up 25 points. With Bargnani back in the lineup, I wouldn't expect DeRozan to score at that rate again. However, the Raptors will need him to at least challenge Wade if they're going to have any shot at winning this game.
Who will win tonight?
Miami 98 — Toronto 92
I'm expecting the Raptors to hang tough, but the Heat are just too talented. Nobody on Toronto can hope to contain LeBron and Chris Bosh is sure to improve on his 3-for-13 performance in the last meeting.
With Bayless out, the Heat also have a major advantage at point guard. Look for Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers to wreak havoc on both ends with their speed and energy.