Before we get things started you can catch James' appearance on The Franchise on Team 990 in Montreal here, where he talks about the Raptors as well as some Chris Bosh and Heat talk.
So for the second time this season the Raptors will be heading to South Beach to take on the Miami Heat. This has also been the second time that they have had to do so on the second end of a back-to-back after taking on the Orlando Magic. Earlier this season, the HEAT defeated the Raptors, 109-100 despite a rather mediocre night from Chris Bosh. The Heat were also at the point in the season in which many thought they weren't worth they hype, but have responded since then with an amazing December and now sit in the 2nd spot in the East rankings. The Raptors on the other hand started off the season better than some had expected, but eventually they would prove the ESPN guys right and enter and extended period of struggles, but at least they aren't the Cavs.
Unlike the first meeting of the season the Heat will be without Udonis Haslem, who's out for the season with a foot injury, as well as Chris Bosh who's currently nursing a sprained ankle and in listed as day-to-day, but is doubtful for tonights game. On the Raptors side of things they would be without Sonny Weems, who is still out with back spasms, Reggie Evans, and Peja, oh wait he's not longer on the roster, so no need to worry about that last one. Linas Kleiza also returned from injury last night and should be ready to go again tonight. Last season, the two clubs split the season-series, 2-2, with each team winning on their home courts. Historically the Heat are 34-21 all-time versus the Raptors in the regular season, and is 21-8 in games played in Miami.
The Basics: Toronto 13-30 ( 5-18 on the road), Miami 30-13 ( lost 4 in a row)
When We Last Saw Them: The Raptors last played less than 24 hours ago and if you don't know by now, it wasn't the prettiest of games. I missed the first quarter of this game, but when i had turned in it was only a four point game and it looked like the Raptors were actually competing with one of the best teams in the league. it would remain that way for the remainder of the second quarter as the Raptors only trailed by only 6 points at halftime.
From there the wheels just fell off the Raptors bus and the Magic just cruised to the finish line. Not sure if Andrea didn't have his banana at halftime or if the entire team just got bored, but they surely didn't play with the same energy and focus they had in the first half. By the halfway make of the third quarter the lead had risen to 15 and the Magic weren't about to take their foot off the gas pedal. Not sure if they really wanted to hand it to the Raptors after losing to them earlier in the season, or if Stan Van Gundy gave them an earful at halftime but they sure wanted to make a statement. Orlando would outscore the Raptors by 13 in the quarter to push their lead to 19. The fourth wasn't much better for the Raptors as they were once again outscored, this time by 21, and in the end the Magic walked away with a 40 point victory.
Andrea Bargnani who once again had a very bad game, finished with 11 point (3-14 from the field) and 4 rebounds. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring with 16 points. Dwight Howard lpaced the Magic with a 31 point, 16 rebound performance, while Ryan Anderson chipped in with 21. Hedo Turkoglu, much to Raptors fans delight, finished with a measly 6 point and 6 boards, but in the end his team did walk away with the victory.
Key Match-ups: The Big 2 vs. the Raptors. Thus far this season the Heat has lost 3 games in which the Big 3 haven't played together. Even without Bosh in this game, Wade and Lebron may not have much difficulty getting their points since the Raptors are more off a perimeter team and lack the post defense that can keep Wade and Lebron for getting easy buckets. Also with guys like Eddie House, Mike Miller, James Jones, Carlos Arroyo and Mario Chalmers patrolling the perimeter Wade and LBJ can be racking up the assists if the Raptors defense collapses every time they take the ball to the hoop. Guys like DeMar, Kleiza and Wright will have to go a solid job defensively and try to stay in front of their match-ups of the Raptors want to rebound from that disappointing loss yesterday and steal a win tonight. Bargnani who has also been silent in the last few games will also have to pull his weight and get out of this recent scoring slump and grab some rebounds as well.
Other Things of Note: Just found out that Dwyane Wade missed shoot-around today after being under the weather and is questionable for tonights game. So the Big 3 may be down the the Cleveland Cabvaliers of old with just Lebron tonight, but I won't put my money on it.
Where It Is On: TSN2 @ 7:30 EST or catch it on the FAN590