Miami Heat Head to the Great White North to Face Raptors


The Miami Heat (29-35) haven’t enjoyed much success at home but that won’t be an issue when they go north of the border to take on the Toronto Raptors (38-26). The Raps have been struggling lately, losers of nine out of their last 10 games but are still considered a contender in the Eastern Conference. Will a recent locker room explosion lead to a victory or with the Heat be able to take advantage of their vulnerable state?

Start Time: 7:30 p.m. EST
Location: Game will be played in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre
TV Info: Fox Sports
Radio: 104.3 The Ticket

Sometimes, a good pep talk is all you need to get you ready. Kyle Lowry did not deliver that.

The news out of Toronto lately is that Lowry, the All-Star point guard, delivered a “profanity-laced tirade” after their Tuesday night loss to the San Antonio Spurs, their ninth in 11 games following the All-Star break. They’ve since dropped to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and are looking for answers.

A much calmer Lowry spoke to reporters after the game:

While the problems in Toronto might be mental rather than physical, it’s starting to affect the team’s production on the floor. They’ve allowed 112 points per game (on nearly 50 percent shooting) in their four most recent losses. The Raptors have also dropped 16 straight games to the Heat, a streak that goes back to the start of the “Big 3″era in Miami. That alone should be all the motivation they need to pull out a victory.

Miami’s challenge is pretty clear but there’s some confidence following a recent win against the Brooklyn Nets. The team was shorthanded and pushed through to sweep the season series with the Nets and Dwyane Wade is playing as brilliantly as every. As per, he “has scored 28, 34 and 28 while shooting 33 of 66 in the last three games”, an impressive resurgence considering how rusty Wade looked following his return from injury. 

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Miami will also welcome back Hassan Whiteside from a one-game suspension following his incident with Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. Overlooked in aftermath is the fact that Whiteside has revealed a clear weakness to opponents – after two ejections in his last three games, it’s clear that his temper can get the most of him. Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas might exploit that to his advantage and it’s an issue that bears close monitoring. Whiteside has been both chastised by his teammates (publicly and privately) and punished by the league that employs him – can he be trusted to stay calm when foul calls don’t go his way?

It’s part of the maturation process for a relatively-inexperienced player. With all of his ‘massive size and surprising production, it’s easy to overlook that he’s still young and adjusting to life in the NBA. But, as Wade pointed out following the ejection in the Boston game, it’s up to Whiteside to show he understands how to move on especially in the midst of a tight playoff race.

The Heat hold a slight half-game lead over the Charlotte Hornets, who will face the Chicago Bulls on Friday. They’ll be lacking their productive center (Al Jefferson) for some time as he deals with his latest injury. But Miami, no stranger to pushing through the injury-related adversity, can’t count on the Hornets to struggle through Jefferson’s absence.

Like Whiteside, the Heat control their own destiny. They’ll need to be fully-engaged in order to escape with a victory. And while inconsistency has been the theme for the season, they’ll need to find to steady improvement if they want to realize their goal of making the postseason.

Beating Toronto a 17th-straight time will be a nice way to start.

Check back with All U Can Heat for a full recap, post-game grades, analysis and more.

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