Mar 31, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) dribbles the ball as Toronto Raptors forward Terrence Ross (31) defends in the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Heat Playoff Preview - Toronto Raptors or Brooklyn Nets?

The Miami Heat were able to complete the four-game sweep of the Charlotte Bobcats in the first round of the NBA Playoffs on Monday night. Although the series was a sweep, Miami was tested by the young and upstart Bobcats squad who made the playoffs for the first time since the 2009-2010 season. The Heat showed the ability to flip the switch in the second half of games and completely dominate their opponent – something that has been evident over the last four years once the playoffs begin.

While the Heat rest and prepare for the second round, the Toronto Raptors and Brooklyn Nets continue to battle in an evenly matched series that has seven games written all over it. If the Raptors are able to pull off the upset Friday night in Brooklyn, there is a chance the Heat will open the second round of the playoffs Sunday in Miami. The more likely scenario is that the Heat will open up round two Tuesday night because even if Toronto wins in six games, the series will not start until Tuesday unless both the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks fail to force a Game 7 in their respective series.

Miami Heat vs. Brooklyn Nets

The Brooklyn Nets swept the season series against the Miami Heat this year 4-0. The Nets were the only team Miami failed to defeat all season long and also the only team to ever sweep a LeBron James led club in a season series of four games. Many people are assuming that the Nets have the Heat’s number but if you take a closer look at how the season played out, you will realize that is not exactly the case. Three of the Nets four wins were by one point while the other was in overtime – this suggests that the every game could have gone either way. Dwyane Wade sat out two of the four games while others (Udonis Haslem, Shane Battier, Mario Chalmers, Greg Oden) all missed at least one contest. What this suggests is that the Brooklyn Nets have seen very little of full Heat lineup – one they will certainly see in a potential second round playoff series.

Another thing to consider when evaluating these two teams were their approaches to each meeting in the regular season. For the Heat, the games were simply just another regular season game but for the Nets, it was something much bigger. Miami has made the NBA Finals three straight seasons and captured back-to-back titles – it is not a surprise that they were sleepwalking through much of the regular season. On the other hand, the Nets organization went all in last offseason trading for an aging Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in hopes of making one deep playoff run. The Nets know that if they have any hope of making the NBA Finals that they must go through the Miami Heat and this showed in their intensity in the head-to-head meetings during the regular season. The Heat team the Nets will potential face next week in the NBA Playoffs will be nothing like they one they faced four times earlier this season – you can bet on that.

Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors

The Miami Heat swept the season series against the Toronto Raptors 4-0. Not only did the Heat win all four contents this year, they have won 14 straight matchups dating back to 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat as free agents. With this said, it’s important to keep in mind that the Raptors were not a very good team the last few years so those numbers are a bit misleading.

Many around the NBA believed that the Toronto Raptors would be one of the worst teams in the league this season – one that would surely be awarded a lottery draft pick in 2014. The Raptors responded with a franchise-record 48 wins (third best in the Eastern Conference) and their first trip to the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season. If you’ve had the opportunity to watch any of the Toronto-Brooklyn series, you would notice how genuinely excited the city is to have their Raptors once again playing in the postseason. It’s a shame that NBA fans rarely had the opportunity to see Toronto play much this year due to a lack of national respect because DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and company are one of the most entertaining teams in the league.

The Verdict

The Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors couldn’t be more opposite of teams. The Nets are older/more experienced and prefer to play a slower paced, grind it out style of basketball. The Raptors are a younger/inexperienced team and prefer to play an up-tempo style of basketball where their athleticism can be on full display. The Heat have typically struggled going against teams that can slow down the pace of a game (Chicago, Indiana, Memphis) so the better matchup (on paper at least) appears to be the Raptors. Whatever the case may be, Heat fans should anticipate their fourth straight trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in just a few short weeks.

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