March 26, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers (15) brings the ball up court against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeated Miami 105-90. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE

Preview: Raptors @ Heat

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Jan. 22, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat shooting guard Mike Miller (left) talks with small forward LeBron James (right) during their game against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Connect Four?

Tonight the Raptors come to town to face leading MVP-candidate LeBron James and a 3-game winning streak. James will certainly have the floor to himself, as Dwyane Wade (ankle), Chris Bosh (rest), and Ronny Turiaf (hamstring) will be sitting this one out. My money is on Wade and Bosh playing tomorrow night when they host Chicago.

Miami is taking advantage of the weaker teams by giving Wade time to heal for the playoffs, and they’ve been a successful 12-1 without him. You can afford to do that when you have two other all-stars on the team, hence the big three. But tonight the full-load and all eyes will be on James and his run for MVP. Although shorthanded, they have to bring it on their home court to victimize the Raptors for the 8th consecutive meeting.

Just why is that?

The other night against Washington, the Bulls let Derrick Rose and Luol Deng rest and it resulted in a 87-84 loss. They should have been able to get the job done, but they didn’t and now Miami trails by 2.5 games for the top spot in the East. Both teams would rather play the spiraling 76ers than the talented Knicks in the first round, plus they will clash in a showdown tomorrow night with seeding implications.

Back in Cleveland of 2005, James scored a career-high 56 points against the Raptors in a losing effort. He averages 34 points and 10 rebounds when Toronto visits Miami. Mario Chalmers and Mike Miller will take on bigger roles and they need to step up, especially offensively. Chalmers is a scrappy defender that should be aggressive and get out on the break. Miller will need to score, but I expect him to tally a few assists and crash the glass as well.

As for the team north of the border, they’re coming off a split series against Atlanta. On Sunday they beat them in Canada without Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani, 102-86. Then Monday came and they traveled to the A-T-L receiving the same hospitality, losing 109-87. The bright spot for Toronto is that swingman DeMar DeRozen is scoring 23 points per game as of late.

The game might be closer than anticipated if taken for granted, but the Heat should ride the momentum, notch another victory at home, and be at full strength for tomorrow’s showdown.

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Tags: 2012 April 18 Miami Heat National Basketball Association NBA Season Toronto Raptors

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