Playoff Prep

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Raptors Push Heat to the Brink

Toronto Raptors Take out the Heat, Push Miami to Brink of Elimination

The Raptors needed overtime to prevail against the Heat, in a 117-109 victory. It was a back and forth game, where the Raptors fell behind early before coming back in the third quarter. Down the stretch, the Raptors got some key stops, and ultimately outscored the Heat 14-6 in overtime to secure the victory.

The loss was Miami’s fourth straight, dropping them to 1.5 games out of the eight spot and all but ends their chances of making the playoffs. For Dwyane Wade, Tuesday’s home game against the Nets will likely be his final game in the NBA.

The bright spot of the night was definitely Norm Powell, who had a stellar night going for 23 points in 21 minutes on a perfect 7-7 from the field 4-4 from long range. He was superb, and with the 8thor 9thman in the rotation spot up in the air for the playoffs, this was important game for Powell to prove his worth.

His regular season has been inconsistent, to put it mildly, with coach Nick Nurse worrying about his propensity to commit turnovers and try to force too many things. Lately, he has shown a calmness and steadiness that his game so badly, needs. His coach was pleased following yesterday’s performance, “Norm’s going to be involved, for sure,” Nurse said. “He could be the sixth guy one night and the ninth guy another night, the seventh guy one night.”

The Raptors also seemed to use yesterday’s game as a trial run for the playoffs. Only nine players played, with Jeremy Lin sitting out. All of the starters and main guys off of the bench were near or at their season average in minutes, and amongst them, some different line-ups were used, including a Kawhi plus the bench unit.

“I like ‘em all, I like ‘em all,” Nurse said of the groups. “I think we’re versatile. I think all those guys can play. I think all those guys want to play, they need to play and it’s up to us to adjust to which ones are out there.”

“Finding who’s well playing well on the night, finding the mismatches and all those things, it’s part of why we’re going so many line-ups- you never know what you’re going to have to see. Us being able to adjust to our own different offense and defensive lineups, the coverages change with who’s in there, the offensive sets are changing depending on who’s in there and we have to be able to do it on the fly quickly.”

After the game, Danny Green also added that “a lot of guys are getting a little antsy,” he said. “I think most teams are. Figuring out who we’re going to play, who we end up with in the first-round matchup and kind of just getting the regular season over with. We have that luxury.”

One worrying theme for the Raptors this season that reared it’s ugly head again yesterday is the poor play-calling/execution in game deciding scenarios. All too often, with the game on the line, Kawhi Leonard is isolated, dribbling the ball and settling for tough, contested shots on the perimeter.

Leonard isn’t James Harden, and if you are going to give him the ball, then Kawhi should be catching the ball in the post or coming off a screen with an opportunity to attack the rim.

With a win in their final game against the Timberwolves on Tuesday, the Raptors will clinch the 2ndbest record in the NBA, and guarantee home-court advantage should they make it to the NBA finals.

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