NBA Eastern Conference Race: Toronto Raptors at Miami Heat

DeMar-DeRozan-raptors-10Toronto at Miami
Time: 7:30 PM ET, Mar 31, 2014
Spread: MIA -5.5
M/L: MIA -235; TOR +195
Total: 192

Betting odds courtesy of Bovada

The Miami Heat smell blood. Now tied with the Indiana Pacers in the loss column, Miami will look to make steps towards over taking the Pacers for the best record in the East. Lingering far behind Miami and Indiana in the third seed are the Toronto Raptors, Miami’s opponent tonight.

Toronto is 22-14 at the Air Canada Centre this year where it will host the Heat in a game NBA oddsmakers are setting the line 5.5 points in favor of the two-time defending champion Heat.

Miami used its stellar defense to halt a poor Milwaukee Bucks team on Saturday (Mar 29) night. Erik Spolestra’s squad held the hapless Bucks to just 67 points in the game and the Heat took the opportunity to get its bench some minutes. LeBron James and Chris Bosh each shot just 10 field goal attempts, as the Heat got 34 points from its bench. Dwyane Wade sat the game out with a strained hamstring, but Toney Douglas filled in brilliantly, scoring 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting, while also doling out four assists and grabbing nine rebounds. The Heat improved to 22-16 on the road with the victory.

As has been typical of the Heat, it has struggled badly on the boards. Miami ranks last in the NBA in rebounds per game (36.9), but it hasn’t mattered the last two seasons and it may not matter again. What the Heat lack in size, it makes up for in versatility, and Chris Andersen’s impact goes far beyond his six points and five rebounds per game.

While Andersen is no longer a premier shot blocker, he still swats away 1.37 shots per game in under 20 minutes a night, and his defense has strengthened the Heat a lot, and it also made it possible to part ways with the less than offensively gifted Joel Anthony.

Toronto leads the Atlantic Division at 42-31. The trade that made waves last year eventually became a waste of time for the Raptors, as Rudy Gay did not even spend a full calendar year north of the border. The reason for that of course is the emergence of DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, cheaper options that are nearly as good as Gay. Gay became a costly redundancy, and the Raptors were also able to peddle Andrea Bargnani off on the Knicks during the offseason.

The end result is a talented young core of DeRozan, Ross and point guard Kyle Lowry that is more than competitive in the weak East. Lowry has turned in a particularly impressive season and now has a PER over 20. Lowry’s averages of 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 7.6 assists somehow weren’t good enough for the All-Star game (Joe Johnson’s 15 points and five boards was so much more impressive, right?), but the Raptors are headed for the playoffs and will have home court advantage in the first round. That’s more than most Raptor fans would have asked for, and the team has a stable full of prospects and solid role players.

TOR Trends: OVER 4-0 in last 4 road games vs teams with winning percentage greater than .600; OVER 5-0 in last 5 road games vs teams with winning home records; OVER 4-0 in last 4 games vs teams with winning percentage over .600.

MIA Trends: UNDER 4-0 in last 4 overall; UNDER 4-0 in last 4 playing on 1 days rest; 5-1-1 ATS in last 7 following SU win of 10 points or more.

Head-to-head: Raptors 1-4 ATS in last 5 meetings; Raptors 9-3 ATS in last 12 meetings in Miami.

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