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NBA Orlando Magic Nikola Vucevic

Predicting the NBA East Playoff Seeds

The races that matter in the NBA East are all but decided if one is inclined to look past the first round of the playoffs. Predicting the top five playoff seeds has been pretty easy for quite a while now, but the bottom three seeds have gotten even tighter as the season winds down.

The Bucks are all but locked into first sitting four games ahead of the Raptors with six games remaining. The Raptors are all but locked into second place 4.5 games ahead of the 76ers and the 76ers are all but locked into third at 3.5 games ahead of the Celtics and Pacers.

The Celtics and Pacers are tied with one head-to-head remaining in their schedule that should decide who gets home court in a first round matchup.

  • 6th Detroit    38-37, (last 10: 4-6)
  • 7th Brooklyn 38-38, (last 10: 5-5)
  • 8th Miami      37-38, (last 10: 6-4)
  • 9th Orlando  37-39, (last 10: 7-3)
  • 10th Charlotte 35-40, (last 10: 5-5)

The fight for fourth will have a huge impact on which teams grab one of the bottom three seeds and because of their own playoff races, neither Boston nor Indiana can afford to take a night off. This should make for some good end of regular season viewing.

  • The Pacers play Orlando, Detroit twice, and Brooklyn.
  • The Celtics play Brooklyn, Miami twice, and Orlando.

Detroit has a tough schedule. Portland, Pacers twice, OKC, Charlotte, Memphis and the Knicks. If they don’t dramatically improve on their play over the past 10 games (4-6), they will find themselves on the outside looking in on April 13th.

Brooklyn‘s schedule could be even more daunting than Detroit’s. Boston, Milwaukee twice, Toronto, Indiana and Miami. The Nets best hope is that the Raptors and Bucks may be running out their third string for big portions these games as they rest up for the playoffs, and if the Nets don’t beat Miami on the last day of the regular season, they could be the odd team out.

Miami‘s schedule starts out soft and gets rough real fast. The Knicks, Boston twice, Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia, Brooklyn. Take one of two from the inconsistent Celtics and the Heat will feel pretty safe.

Orlando has to believe they’ve got a real chance to move up in the standings. Sixth place is not out of reach. A schedule of Indiana, Toronto, New York, Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte has more penciled-in wins than any of the three teams ahead of them.

Charlotte looked like they were still in this race until they dropped a game to the Lakers. Now they have to face Golden State, Utah, and New Orleans on the road. At two games back, their season could be over before coming home to play Toronto and then getting their shot at Detroit and Orlando with what should be an easy win over the Cavs in between.

There is a very real possibility Detroit, Brooklyn, Miami, and Orlando all finish the season with a record of 40-42 and some unimaginable tie-breakers deciding their respective seeding.

  •  Detroit    40-42, (last 7: 2-5)
  •  Brooklyn 40-42, (last 6: 2-4)
  •  Miami      40-42, (last 7: 3-4)
  •  Orlando  40-42, (last 6: 3-3)
  • 10th Charlotte 37-45, (last 7: 2-5)


Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

  photo credit Larry Millson



NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kyrie Irving

Six Offers For Kyrie Irving Not Enough For Delusional Cavs

The Cleveland Cavaliers are in a pickle. They don’t want to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but Irving wants to go and the whole league knows it. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski six teams have made offers, but so far nothing has happened. If the Cavs think what’s been put on the table isn’t reasonable, they’re delusional.

The San Antonio Spurs, LA Clippers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves, New York Knicks and Miami Heat. There were approximately 20 teams that inquired …, but far fewer have registered legitimate proposals… many simply don’t have the assets to make a deal happen.

What Wojnarowski isn’t saying is some GMs wouldn’t replace their current starting point guard with Irving who isn’t a great playmaker, doesn’t play defense and whose numbers and reputation has almost certainly been juiced by playing along side LeBron James.

No one believes Irving isn’t a worthy All-Star. His handles, shooting and flash is elite. He’s worth all of his $18.9 million salary and he’d get more in today’s market, but let’s not go crazy here. Irving isn’t about to carry any team to the postseason as their top player. He needs to share that load or play with someone better.

The Heat have made a solid offer, one that probably makes the Cavs better than last season, but politics may be getting in the way. This deal should have gotten done.

The Heat are willing to part with Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow as centerpieces for an Irving trade, league sources said. With the Cleveland-Miami history, there’s little chance for a deal unless the Heat offered an overwhelming package.

Aside from taking 4.3 fewer shots per game, Dragic has nearly identical shooting percentages from the field and from three, they had the same number of assists and steals plus, Dragic is half a rebound better. Then there’s Dragic wasn’t playing beside anyone of note to divert attention away from the fact he was his team’s leading scorer. Imagine how much better those numbers could look with James setting him up for open shots and ISO plays driving to the hoop.

Sure Irving is six years younger, that’s why the 21-year-old Lottery Pick Winslow was included in the package.

Dragic will be at least as statistically good as Irving for the two years the Cavs can force Irving to stay in Cleveland and will keep the Cavs as the heavy favorites to come out of the East again this season.

If you’re looking for a REAL REASON the Cavs are balking at this trade, look no further than the luxury tax. This trade would add almost a million dollars to the Cavs payroll with a luxury tax cost approaching $5 million.

Then there’s the five other teams Wojnarowski says have made offers.

San Antonio would be interested with Tony Parker injured, but aside from LaMarcus Aldridge, they don’t have a lot to trade until December 15th. It’s laughable to think the Spurs would trade Kawhi Leonard for anyone on the Cavs including James. Even Aldridge’s departure would leave a hole in the roster that would not be compensated by acquiring Irving.

The Clippers might be interested in building a package around DeAndre Jordan and would be pretty happy if they could knock a million or two off their payroll in the process. Most any other deal would have to wait until December 15th. The Cavs wouldn’t be too excited at the prospect of increasing their already huge tax bill though.

The Suns have assets including a protected first round pick from the Heat and could include Eric Blesoe plus a young player in a deal. The fly in this ointment would probably come from the Irving’s camp. He wouldn’t be too excited about joining a projected Lottery Team that would still be a projected Lottery Team with him on it and he’d almost certainly let the Suns know that.

The Timberwolves are an interesting landing spot. Logically this team doesn’t need Irving as they just signed free agent Jeff Teague to a $19 million per year deal, but there sure is a lot of speculation. Irving would be a big upgrade over Teague, although a trade couldn’t be made until December 15th. What makes this especially intriguing is if the T-wolves and Andrew Wiggins can’t come to terms on a max contract extension. A Teague plus Wiggins for Irving plus Shumpert would be a home run for the Cavs.

The Knicks want to do something around Carmelo Anthony and its a good trade for the Cavs even if they don’t seem all that excited about it. Irving plus Shumpert for Melo knocks almost $3 million off the Cavs payroll and saves almost $15 million in tax. Not sure what the holdup is?

The Cavs can trade Irving before the start of the season for a solid return as long as they don’t get so delusional about Irving’s value that they get in their own way. A deal with either the Heat or the Knicks would leave Cleveland at least as well off on the court after the trade as they were before it next season and likely the season after that. Expecting much more probably means waiting until after December 15th and taking all kinds of needless risks.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Miami Heat James Johnson

Miami Heat Still Have Improbable Life Left In This Season

By Frank McLean

Like cats, which according to legend have nine lives, the Miami Heat still have improbable life left in their 2016-2017 NBA season.

Friday with just 10-men dressed they scratched and clawed with the Toronto Raptors only to lose 96-94 and see their miracle playoff run pretty much get down to their last gasp.

Then sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference just behind Chicago, the Heat kept hope alive with a 106-103 win over the playoff bound Wizards while Chicago coughed up the improbable 107-106 loss to the last place Nets to bring both teams records to 39-41. Only a tie-breaker now stands between the Heat and a postseason berth with two games left.

The story of how the Heat got here is like the proverbial cat with nine lives.

On January 13th the Heat finished up a 1-and-5 road trip with a loss in Milwaukee. That loss put the Heat at 11-and-30 to start the season and if you suggested they had a shot at the playoffs you would have been laughed right out of the room. In reality the thought of tanking and trying to get a high pick in the draft lottery would have been more like it.

But then the Heat did the unthinkable and ran off a 13-game winning streak to improve their record to 24-30 and get right back in the playoff picture.

Since then, including Friday’s loss in Toronto, they have gone 14-11 and are at 38-41 they became the first team in the long history of the NBA to reach the 38-win total after starting a season 19-games below .500.

A smiling Heat coach Erik Spoelstra calls the run his team has been on a challenge.

“We call it a challenge that’s the way it has been the last two-two and a half months. It has been like March madness, every game has been an elimination game.”

“Look our guy’s want this everybody knows what’s at stake,” Spoelstra added. “Our guy’s leave this out there every single night. I want them to enjoy this. These games are a privilege to play in, games that matter”.

There is no argument that the Heat don’t leave it on the floor every night. Look at Friday’s game. Every time the Raptors tried to pull away in the fourth quarter, the undermanned Heat would fight back. Down five points with 4.8 seconds left there was no letting up as Josh Richardson came down the floor and hit a desperation three pointer with 1.2 seconds left on the clock to cut the score to 96-94. But they just ran out of time.

Friday’s line-up featured two rookies from the NBDL Okaro White and Rodney McGruder who was in the starting five.

And pressed into a starting role is the slimmed down former Raptor James Johnson who says he is in the best shape of his career with a weight down below 250-pounds and five percent body fat. Spoelstra says that he doesn’t know where his team would be without Johnson.

The Heat finish up their schedule with a pair home games against Cleveland and Washington again, however, Chicago seems to have the easier schedule to finish the year.

The Bulls get Orlando and then Brooklyn again, so when you look at each team’s schedule the Heat have it tough, but as Spoelstra says, it’s lets go time.

“Let’s go to the next game, we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. On to the next battle, people think that there are no meaningful games in the NBA. Well tune into the Miami Heat where every game is competitive.”

The Heat’s chances don’t look good, but they are going to go down fighting. That has been their M.O. since midway in January. No reason to think that will change now.



   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.






NBA Toronto Raptors Serge Ibaka

Whiteside And Ibaka To Miss Raptors At Heat On Thursday

Both the Raptors and Heat managed to win their respective games on Tuesday night, but both teams are expecting key players won’t be available when they clash in Miami on Thursday says Barrie Jackson of the Miami Herald.

Whiteside’s availability this week very much in jeopardy after 13 stitches were required to close a gash between the middle and ring fingers of his right hand, an injury that happened when he sliced his hand against the backboard as he attempted to block a shot by Suns power forward Marquese Chriss with 2:08 left in Miami’s 112-97 win.

The last time Whiteside had a laceration on his right hand, almost exactly two years ago, he missed three games

Toronto figures to be without Serge Ibaka, who was ejected Tuesday after exchanging punches with Chicago’s Robin Lopez.

Serge Ibaka’s one game suspension has been confirmed.



Projecting The NBA East Playoff Seeding

Down to a dozen games to go and only three spots seem to have been settled when it comes to playoff seeding. Cavs, Celtics and Hawks appear to have locked in their current postseason rank and everyone else with a chance is still battling for position.

The Cavaliers only have a game and a half lead over the Celtics for first and ESPN projects they’ll finish two games ahead at the end of the regular season. Unless coach Lue goes a little overboard on this “rest” concept, only road games in San Antonio and Boston should really present a test to the team everyone has pegged as returning to defend their NBA title. Of course they’ll likely punt a few games unless Boston is really pushing them.

And Boston’s relatively easy schedule just might give them that opportunity to push the Cavs all the way to the end of the regular season. If it wasn’t for those recent unexpected losses to the Suns, Nuggets and 76ers, the ESPN prediction of a 7-4 run to the finish would look unreasonably conservative.

The Wizards will be doing well to finish out the last 12 games going 6-6. Losers of their last two games, they play 5th place Atlanta and last place Nets before heading out on a brutal five game road trip book-ended by Cleveland and Golden State.  They might need to win out in April to go 6-6. Fortunately it looks like the Hawks are too far back to pass them for 4th.

ESPN has Toronto passing the Wizards for 3rd place and if they win the games they are supposed to, the Raptors will be better than the projected 8-4 over their last 12 games and be ready to pounce on any unexpected major slippage by the Celtics for 2nd.

The real battle for playoff seeding begins at 6th and runs through 10th place. Someone isn’t going to make it who thinks they should.

The Pacers are trying to set some kind of bizarre record for alternating wins and losses (now at 14 games of a loss followed by a win) and if they can keep it up, they should grab one of the three remaining playoff spots. However, they have a tough remaining schedule, so the 5-7 ESPN prediction seems reasonable and could be bad news. A 41-41 record might not be enough for a playoff spot.

Milwaukee is hot and got hot at the right time, but Giannis Antetokoumpo turned an ankle and if he misses the usual two weeks, all bets are off on how the Bucks finish out the regular season. With Antetokoumpo, the ESPN prediction of going 6-7 seems ultra-conservative, without him, it might be generous.

The Pistons are in a tie with the Heat now and forecast to still be tied at the end of the regular season. Detroit needs to make hay from now to the end of March when they have seven winnable games because they aren’t making up any ground in April.

The Heat have won a home-and-home against the Cavs in March and then beat Toronto, but they face a tough schedule to the end of the regular season with Toronto twice more, Boston, Detroit, Washington twice and the Cavs again. They’ll have to perform without their third best scorer in Dion Waiters who might miss the rest of the regular season with an ankle injury.

The Bulls have the schedule to make up ground, but they haven’t been playing well and have lost Wade for the season.

The Hornets have a tough schedule ahead of them and just don’t seem to have anything left in the tank.

Playoff seeding 6th thru 8th is decidedly undecided.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson



Chris Bosh NBA Miami Heat

Chris Bosh Fails His Physical With The Heat

It has been widely reported that when blood clotting issues reoccur the condition will likely be chronic, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that All-Star Chris Bosh failed his physical with the Heat prior to the start of training camp as reported by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat had gone into this week expecting to clear Bosh to resume his career this season

an issue arose in blood work this week, the Heat concluded he could not be cleared to return.

A statement released Friday afternoon by the Heat said, “the Miami Heat and Chris Bosh, in consultation with team doctors and other physicians, have been working together for many months with the mutual goal of having Chris return to the court as soon as possible. Chris has now taken his preseason physical. The Miami Heat regret that it remains unable to clear Chris to return to basketball activities, and there is no timetable for his return.”

Bosh was the last of the “Big 3” that included LeBron James and Dwyane Wade who had led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two championships. Many pundits did not expect the Heat to reach the postseason with or without Bosh this year.

It is expected the Heat will apply for salary cap relief for the balance of Bosh’s contract per NBA guidelines.

Bosh, 32, is due $76 million over the next three seasons of his five-year, $118 million contract. And while he is expected to be paid all of that even if he doesn’t play again, there is a mechanism for the Heat to clear his substantial cap hits for the final two seasons of the contract — $25.3 million in 2017-18 and $26.8 million in 2018-19.

The Heat cannot apply to remove Bosh’s salary from its cap until Feb. 9, the anniversary of his last game.

Bosh was originally drafted by the Toronto Raptors fourth overall in 2003 and has been an All-Star every season starting in 2005-06.






Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade Chooses The Bulls

In an unforeseen shocker, the reliable source for NBA trades and free agent deals says Miami HEAT free agent superstar Dwyane Wade is choosing to join the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls have to clear salary cap space to sign Wade, so the vultures are already circling to grab whatever free talent they can.

Looks like all those comments about Wade feeling slighted by Miami are true after all.

This deal is done and done (on July 7th)




NBA Toronto Raptors ACC

Raptors Expect Biggest Canadian TV Audience Ever For Game 7

Canadians are starting to tune in Raptors playoff games in record numbers and if Game Five against the Heat was any indication, the Sunday afternoon Game Seven should sport a National TV audience in Canada that gets the NBA head office drooling.

Game Five between the Raptors and the Heat was the first big time breakthrough for NBA basketball in some 15 years since the good old days of Vince Carter according to Yahoo Sports,

this might be the kind of breakthrough they haven’t seen since the Vince Carter days. A total of 4.4 million Canadians watch some or all of Sunday’s game and the audience peaked at 2.6 million near game’s end.

It outdrew everything else on Canadian TV that night, a first for basketball in this country.

The Numeris overnight rating was 1,530,000 on Sportsnet.

However, the US Networks don’t care what the Canadian audience is as those numbers don’t help them with their advertisers, but they should care what the US numbers have been and the Raptors are drawing well down south.

Sports Media Watch reports the TV audience numbers In the US and those US Networks need to pay closer attention.

Monday’s Raptors/Heat Game 4 had 4.0 million — up 27% from Hawks/Wizards last year

Game 5 of Heat/Raptors drew 4.0 million — up 5% from Wizards/Hawks last year (3.8M)

The Sunday afternoon 3:30pm ET start for Game Seven should easily top those gaudy numbers (for a Raptors game).



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.





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NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Game 7 Is The New Biggest Game In Raptors History

By Frank McLean

For the second time in this 2016 playoff run and for the third time in the last three years the Toronto Raptors will host a Game Seven, but this time it really is the biggest game in Raptors history as a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals hangs in the balance. You should be there if you can get tickets or at least head down to Jurassic Park!

For the third time in the last three seasons, the Raptors failed to win a Game Six and eliminate the need for the 50/50 crap-shoot that a seventh and deciding game of a playoff series can bring. They are now zero and seven when they go into a playoff game leading in a series after the Game Six loss Friday night.

The defense was not there Friday night for the Raptors. It was the first time in the series that the Heat were able to put 100 plus up on the board without overtime.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, in what could be called an act of desperation to avoid elimination, went with a small eight man rotation. Josh McRoberts was the tallest at 6’10, while the other seven players average height was just under 6’6.

It was another adjustment in a series of one coaching adjustment after another that worked for Spoelstra. His small line-up worked as the Raptors defense could not stop them, especially guard Goran Dragic.

Toronto held Dwyane Wade to 22 points and when you keep Wade to around 20 points, you usually have a chance to win, but Dragic went off for 30 points, a career best in the playoffs, which turned out to be the magic formula to get the Heat to a Game Seven.

“Last year at this time we were all on vacation,” Spoelstra said. “So often in this business people tend to want to search for the easy route. There’s usually not an easy way in a seven-game series, certainly not with a second and third seed going against each other. This is the path and now we’ve pushed it to a Game Seven.”

To be honest if you thought the Heat with their championship pedigree would allow themselves to be eliminated at home you obviously have not watched this team in playoffs over the last five to seven years. Even without LeBron James, there are too many proud veterans like Wade that would not allow that to happen.

Overmatched is the one word that can describe what the small Heat attack against the Raptors D.

“Offense was not the issue,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey after the game. “We needed to get stops. The defensive end was our nemesis tonight.”

DeMar DeRozan, with a shoelace on his thumb, and Kyle Lowry combined for 58 points, however, the rest of the gang could only add another 32, but even at that, if they could have made a few stops, there would have been no need for a Game Seven.

“Ball containment, keeping it in front of us,” Casey added about the team’s defensive problems. “Dictating direction in terms of which way we wanted to send the basketball. They dictated to us how fast they wanted to play. They set the tone from the tip. I don’t think anyone had a good night defensively.”

“It is just our one-on-one defense,” DeRozan summed up what the Raptors need to do in Sunday’s game seven. “We have to buckle down and not rely on help so much. Everyone has to man up and do their job.”

Winning 56 games in the regular season gave the Raptors the second seed in the East and home court advantage in this best of seven series. It’s the reward for all the hard work they put in since opening night at the end of October.

With Hassan Whiteside’s knee and Luol Deng’s wrist injury, the Heat are down to just eight small players and lost a chunk of their height in their roster.

Two things Toronto needs to do Sunday in Game Seven are make some stops on the defensive end, and one more game of 40 points plus from the duo of DeRozan and Lowry. That should be enough to send the Raptors to Cleveland Tuesday night and uncharted territory – the Eastern Conference Finals.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini




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Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

Miami Heat Are Extra Tough In Elimination Games

As the Toronto Raptors look to make franchise history by advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals, they face an opponent in the Miami Heat that has been extra tough in elimination games under head coach Erik Spoelstra.

The Heat have won their last five straight elimination games at home, the longest current streak in the NBA and Spoelstra is 7-1 at home when facing elimination, the second best home elimination record in NBA history playing eight elimination games or more.

It would be hard to call Game Six any better than a coin flip. Through the first five games, three went to overtime and neither team has dominated anything. It’s been a war of attrition where defense has trumped offense and no quarter is given.

In his Thursday media conference call, Spoelstra said Hassan Whiteside will not play Friday and forward Luol Deng is questionable with a bruised left wrist. So, if Deng can go at all, just like the Raptors DeMarre Carroll who also has a bruised wrist, he’ll play.

NBA Miami Heat Luol Deng

“You’re just trying to do whatever you have to do to get some kind of advantage,” Spoelstra said. “I told our guys that for them, it’s a privilege to be a part of a series like this, where you really get challenged.”

Dwyane Wade has been the only Heat player who has been able to find any kind of offense on a consistent basis against a smothering Raptors defense and he’ll be expected to carry the load again.

Wade has scored in double-figures against the Raptors 40 consecutive times, tying his longest active double-figure scoring streak against any opponent and he will pass this mark in Game Six. He leads the Heat in scoring this postseason and is shooting a team-high 60 percent (9-15) from three-point range in the playoffs and his nine made threes this postseason already surpass his entire total of seven in the regular season. He has hit seven of those threes in five games against Toronto.

The Heat will be looking for Wade to re-create those back-to-back 30-point games at home of 38 points in Game Three and then 30 points in Game Four to give his team a chance to steal Game Six.

Unfortunately for the Heat, they aren’t just looking to Wade for scoring. The future Hall-of-Fame All-Star guard also leads what’s left of his team in rebounds (6.2 per game) and assists (3.4 per game), so they’ll be looking for someone – anyone – else to step up.

Miami will be counting on veterans Joe Johnson and Goran Dragic. Johnson is 1-17 from three-point range in this series and is only averaging 13.8 points per game against the Raptors. After two 20 point efforts to start the series, Goran Dragic has slumped to 13.3 points per game over the last three games and needs to find his offensive mojo as well.

For Spoelstra’s elimination game luck to hold up, his veterans will have to pull through tonight.

Game Six in Miami marks the eighth time in franchise history the Raptors have had an opportunity to closeout a playoff series. They are 2-5 all-time. The last time Toronto won a playoff series with a road victory was May 4, 2001 in Game Five at New York. They are 1-3 overall in Game Sixes of seven-game series.

It’s been a season of shattering historical bugaboos for the Raptors. They’ll be looking to kick yet another cliche about their team to the curb in Miami.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Won Because DeMar DeRozan Played Hurt

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors won game five of their series with the Miami Heat Wednesday night the old fashioned Raptors way, DeMar DeRozan was shooting the basketball and it was going in the hoop.

It sounds simplistic, but when DeRozan and his partner in crime at the guard position Kyle Lowry combine to score 40 or more points in game, the Raptors usually win. It’s one of the few givens in life like death and taxes.

However, the duo has struggled this postseason. Lowry has been in the worst shooting slump of his career and DeRozan has as well, but in Game Five against the Heat, DeRozan was 11-22 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the foul line for his playoff best game of 34 points. Lowry attempted 25 shots from the field, made nine, but was 4-9 from behind the three point line and chipped in with a solid 25 points. Added together, they combined for 59 of the Raptors 99 points on the night.

Lowry had his best game of the playoffs in this series back on Saturday in Game Three with a 33 point performance, but he and DeRozan have not been completely in sync in the same playoff game for the whole postseason. That is something the Raptors and their fans have been waiting for.

“We can disparage them all we want and talk about how bad their shooting is, but you don’t forget how to score the basketball,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s going to come back. When? You hope it’s within this series, but it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season and not one-time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball.

“And now they have to ramp it up again for the next game.”

DeRozan has taken a beating in the press and on social media over his lack of performance in the playoffs. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and go for a max deal in the neighborhood of $20-25-million per season. One Toronto sports writer actually said on Wednesday that if the Raptors did sign DeRozan to a max deal that person should be fired.

DeRozan’s performance in Game Five was a gigantic “stick it” to his detractors.

The fact is he played the game hurt, the thumb on his shooting hand is hurting and hurting bad. He played through the pain. Many stars have sat out with less pain and just shut it down.

In the fourth quarter DeRozan re-injured his thumb and made a bee line to the locker room. He was followed by the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The cagey Scotsman did his best MacGyver imitation by using a shoelace on DeRozan’s thumb and he came back and finished the game.

“Thousand dollar shoelaces” is what DeRozan called the device.

When asked, what does the thumb hurt like? DeRozan said, “it hurt likes a blow torch.”
That’s pretty graphic.

Plain and simple the Raptors don’t win without DeRozan sucking it up and playing. He played like the legendary war horses of the old days in the NBA.

That’s why the Raptors head to Miami up three games to two instead of being down three games to two.

They need DeRozan and Lowry to keep up doing what they did Wednesday night if they want to advance to the Toronto Raptors first ever Conference Final.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Heat Series Is Like A Hockey Game Says Cory Joseph

The Toronto Raptors – Miami Heat second round playoff series has become a war of attrition. First it was Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside battling until both were lost to injury in Game Three. Then DeMarre Carroll and Luol Deng were sidelined in Game Five. The series has become so physical that the Raptors Canadian Cory Joseph suggests it’s like a hockey game out there.

“It’s basketball,” Joseph said. “You know I’m Canadian. We like hockey. We play hockey a little bit. I don’t try anything that’s hockey, this is basketball. I don’t try anything that’s not basketball related, but it’s competitive.”

Goran Dragic must have got that retroactive technical foul for taking a swing at Joseph because the two of them haven’t been in an actual physical battle for position on the court all series.

Joseph admitted he was trying to protect his pocketbook with his answers and while it is still basketball out there, it’s more like old-time basketball when players traded shots going down the court and established position with a hard forearm to the chest. The scoring has suffered in the melee, but these games are being played hard and they are fun to watch if you know what to look for and aren’t expecting a lot of pretty plays.

Both teams are coached to play tough. To not let anyone move anywhere without “feeling” a defender and on offense, they are expected to fight their way through the defense. It’s a battle players on these two teams are expected to embrace.

“It’s playoffs,” Patrick Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “I take it we’re dishing just as much as we are receiving. At the end of the day, the playoffs are a very physical game. You do whatever it takes to get a loose ball, a rebound, to get a stop, to stop your man from getting to the basket or scoring.

“A lot of pushing. A lot of shoving. A lot of stuff going on out there on the court.

“It’s a lot of fun. You are able to bang, push and shove, no calls being made. It’s just playing free out there.”

This isn’t regular season basketball anymore. Nothing that has been happening on the court resembles what went on before the playoffs and both coaches are loving it.

“A big part of it is how both teams are defending,” Heat head coach Eric Spoelstra said after Game Five. “Neither team played like this during the regular season and it’s just coming down to how many plays you can make during the course of the game. How efficient you can be with your offense even if you aren’t scoring big and inevitably it comes down to those final possessions coming down the stretch.

“I don’t know if the offense is going to trend for either team.

“Our guys love this, love this kind of competition.”

The defense being played in this series is over the top and at a level that isn’t often seen even in the postseason (anymore). Both Toronto and Miami averaged over a 100 points per game during the regular season, but only Miami has been able to crack the century mark with overtime in Game One and since then the Heat has averaged just 92 points per game. The Raptors are only averaging 94.6 points per game.

“The defense always picks up in the playoffs,” Joseph told Pro Bball Report prior to Game Five. “We are both being physical with each other and we stopping, we’re trying to hold each other to each’s weaknesses and it’s working pretty good.”

Even after spending four seasons with the very disciplined Spurs, Joseph can’t remember scoring being this hard to get in the playoffs.

“Actually, no I haven’t,” Joseph said. “I haven’t been where it’s this close. I’ve been in a couple of Game Sevens in terms of where nobody can break ahead.

“We are just playing hard and holding each other to each other’s weaknesses and trying to take away each other’s strengths and it’s been working. It’s been pretty low scoring.

“It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be a grind it out game.”

Count on it, with these two teams and these two head coaches, they’ll be grinding it out like it’s a hockey game right to the bitter end of this series.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini



NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Two Tired Teams Face Off In Toronto

It was obvious from the jump in Miami, the Raptors and the Heat looked like two tired teams in Game Four. This series has been brutal on the players and with both teams coming off grueling seven game first round series with only a day off between games, the wear and tear is showing.

These are two of the slowest paced teams in the NBA, Toronto was 29th at 92.9 and the Heat 25th at 93.6, but in the second round of the playoffs, their coaches have slowed the pace to a mind-numbing 88.3 according to Basketball Reference.

This series has been all about defense. The Raptors running back after every shot and rarely crashing the boards to eliminate fast break point chances. The Heat doing much the same and it’s gotten worse without Jonas Valanciunas and Hassan Whiteside in the picture. Both team averaged double-digits in fast break points during the regular season, but in the four playoff games, the Heat are averaging 9.3 points and the Raptors 7.5 points. When these teams say they are looking for easy points, it’s because they are going up against a set defense almost every possession.

As much as no player would ever admit to being worn down, it’s a lot harder playing defense than offense and in a series as physical as this, it’s even harder. If you’re still wondering why so many players are leaving shots short on the rim, the obvious answer is their legs are gone.

It’s a lot easier in the regular season. Both teams shot an effective field goal rate of over 50 percent, but in this series, the Heat are at 48.3 and the Raptors 46.6. Toronto averaged 102.7 points per game and the Heat 100 in the regular season. Now it’s 93.5 for Toronto and 94.8 for Miami.

Points are hard to come by and frustration is starting to show. Goran Dragic didn’t take a swing at Cory Joseph in Game Four because he’s happy with his offense. It seems like everyone except Wade is having a tough time scoring.

Joe Johnson, picked up to bolster the Heat offense, shot over 40 percent on three-point attempts for the Heat during the regular season, but he’s 0-13 in this series and he’s not alone.

It’s been easy to pick on DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry for their shooting woes, but as Bismack Biyombo tries to tell anyone who’ll listen, this isn’t about shooting. This series and the playoffs are all about defense.

The Raptors are +5.8 points per game with Lowry on the court. Even DeRozan is +1.5 points. They are struggling to score, but their team is ahead with them on the court. Lowry is playing a team high 40.8 minutes per game because they aren’t going to win games in this series without him.

Surprisingly, Dwyane Wade is a -2 points as the Heat’s most effective player has been Luol Deng +4.5 points per game playing a team high 40.7 minutes. The rookie Josh Richardson is +4 in 25.6 minutes off the bench and has earned those unexpected crunch-time minutes from his coach.

Anyone looking for a breakout scoring effort to save their team in this series had better not be holding their breath. The Heat have averaged 92.3 points over the past three games with two of those games going into overtime and Toronto has averaged just 92.7 points.

With coach Casey making statements like, “Our defense hasn’t been atrocious, but it could be better,” the focus of this series isn’t about to change. If the defense gets any tighter, both teams will be struggling to score in the low 80s as those tired legs will make most shooters look like they’ve never been in a gym before.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors And Heat Look to Win Ugly In Game Five

By Frank McLean

After watching Game Four of this Miami Heat-Toronto Raptors conference semi-final, you might scratch your head and ask, was that really professional basketball I just watched? That game was ugly from both team’s perspective.

Missing their big men in the middle , Jonas Valanciunas for Toronto and Hassan Whiteside for Miami, both teams had to improvise so to speak.

What hurts from a Raptors standpoint is that they had an opportunity to win this game and they let it slip away.

The problem was they couldn’t stop Dwyane Wade who scored 30 points in the win and willed the Heat to the win, that’s what the great players in the game do.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey sat down with the media yesterday when the team returned from Miami after opting to spend the night in South Florida instead of flying home after the game.

“Everyone’s upset we lost, which they should be, but nobody’s pushing the panic button because it’s such a competitive series,” Casey said.

It has been a competitive series for sure, even though the basketball has not been pretty.

“They’re not shooting the ball well, it’s written history,” Casey added. “We know about it, Miami knows it. We’re trying to do things to get around it. We’re trying to create more offence with those guys struggling the way they are, but again, they’re going to be our guys because at some point they’re going to get their rhythm, their shot. Someone else is going to step up and they may be more of a decoy or whatever, but’s not like we’re going to bench Kyle and DeMar and go away from them. They’re our guys. We believe in them. They’re our two all-stars and sooner or later they’re going to come through or be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

The struggles again go back to the lack of scoring from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The duo were a combined 6-28 from the field for 19 points. Lowry fouled out and that did not help. DeRozan was 4-17 and has a thumb injury that is hindering his shooting.

“I thought that was our biggest nemesis, containing the basketball,” Casey continued. “Dwyane Wade was just putting his head down and attacking our paint. I don’t care if you have Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell back there. One dribble to the rim, there’s not many big guys that are going to (get over to help).

“Our defence hasn’t been atrocious, but it could be better,” Casey said. “It could help our offence more by getting stops, getting out on the break a little more.”

The Raptors have been decent on defense. The Heat averaged 108 points a game against Charlotte and the Raptors have held them to under a 100 in this series.

Toronto can still win this series.

They must attack Wade and make life difficult for him.

Lowry can’t foul out of the game early like he did in Game Four. He needs another big scoring game like Game Three.

If DeMar DeRozan’s thumb is hurting, he needs to become a Jose Calderon and be a ball distributor and set his teammates up for the perfect shot.

Let’s see what happens, it might not be pretty, but ugly wins count the same as the pretty one’s.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Toronto Raptors Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll

It’s Next Man Up For The Raptors Again

By Frank McLean

Like a good mystery story the current second round playoff match-up between the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat has taken twists and turns as you try and figure out how this is all going to end.

In Game Three both teams lost their big men at center, Jonas Valanciunas for Toronto with an ankle sprain and Hassan Whiteside of Miami with a knee sprain.

Valanciunas is out for the rest of the series and Whiteside will miss Game Four at the very least. No word if he will be able to go in Game Five Wednesday night back in Toronto.

So with the two big men out for each team this series will get small, real small.

The line-ups might remind older basketball fans of the old World Basketball League in the late 1980’s and early 90’s that was the brain child of Boston Celtics hall of fame legend Bob Cousey. It was for players six foot five and under. No tall people allowed.

However, from the Raptors point of view, it’s next man up at the center spot. Bismack Biyombo will get the start, a few inches smaller than the seven foot Valanciunas, but he brings the same type of game as a ball of hate.

NBA Toronto Raptors Bismack Biyombo

Biyombo started 22 games earlier in the season for Valanciunas while he was out with a broken hand. The Raptors were 16-6 in those games and in one of those games he set what was then a personal high with 20 rebounds against Dallas. Then on March 17th he set up his own St. Patrick’s Day massacre as he broke a club record by hauling in 25 rebounds against the Pacers in Indiana. Biyombo also led the team with 133 blocked shots during the regular season.

Biyombo can more than do the job.

Getting Biyombo was part of the remake Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri did with this team in the summer. There was no depth at the center spot last year, but now there is help until the big Lithuanian can get back into the line-up if the Raptors are fortunate enough to advance and face Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Final.

“I was happy from day one, he’s stepped up when the time to compete comes,” Ujiri said at practice on Sunday about Biyombo’s play this season. “And when his chances come, it’s been really good for us, so it’s another chance but also Bebe (Lucus Nogueira) and Jason Thompson. The coaches I’m sure will figure all this out.”

Ujiri didn’t mention his name, but the seldom used James Johnson can fill in at the center spot as well.

“I’ve done it before. It’s nothing new, it’s nothing that I can’t do,” a confident Biyombo said on Sunday.

“I think I have shown enough. It’s just you get to play more and you get to do a lot more things. That’s about it. “I have shown that I can guard small. We switch a lot (defensively) when I’m on the floor, one through five. So there’s nothing that will surprise me, but as a team we have to find a way to keep them (the Heat) under 100 points. That has been the key for us to winning a playoff game.”

Keeping the Heat under a 100 points will be a key for the Raptors to win this series. The total score for the first three games is 287-285 with two overtime games, showing that no one team is running away with this series on the scoreboard.

So Bismack Biyombo come on down, you are the next man up.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Toronto Raptors Are 3:1 Favorites To Beat The Heat

There has been a lot of noise coming from south of the Canadian border about how much certain sports organizations expect or would like to see a Cavaliers versus Heat Eastern Conference Final, but after the Raptors took back home court advantage in Miami on Saturday night, the odds have swung heavily in favor of a Toronto-Cleveland series.

Like it or hate it, ESPN’s Basketball Power index is at the very least objective and it puts the Raptors as 3:1 favorites to advance.

Raptors playoff odds as of May 8 2016 per ESPN

The ESPN Basket Power Index is meant to predict a team’s future performance using the recent past and known future. It doesn’t account for things like Heat center Hassan Whiteside twisting a knee a possibly missing the rest of the postseason or Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas turning an ankle and not being available either.

“Right now we don’t know about Hassan who is a big part of what we do, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have a series to play and Toronto, they don’t care, no one cares,” Dwyane Wade said after Game Three.

Wade is right. No one cares if a team is hindered by injuries to key players in the playoffs. You figure it out or your season ends and this series is about to look a whole lot more like the second half of Game Three than it did in the 2.5 contests prior to that.

“Whiteside’s out, JV is out, it was a guard game today so the floor opened up a lot more,” Kyle Lowry said after Game Three. “I felt like (my) shot was there last game to be honest and I felt in was just a matter of time and me shooting the shots for them to go down.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone the Wade and Lowry both went off in the second half of Game Three. With the starting centers out of the game, there was no rim protection and it became a free-for-all driving to the hoop which caused defenders to sag off and the three-point line to open up. Neither team could stop the other’s star guard, they could only barely slow them down.

Don’t look to an analytical predictor to help you figure which team is going to be favored now. Your only clues are going to come from how these teams performed in the regular season and how both teams won without their centers.

The Heat went 6-3 without Whiteside this season and the Raptors were 16-6 without Valanciunas. In Miami, Chris Bosh was there to step up in 8 of the games Whiteside missed, averaging 21 points and 7.8 rebounds, a small but significant bump over his season averages. In Toronto, Bismack Biyombo started the 22 games Valanciunas wasn’t available and averaged 7.2 points , 12.2 rebounds and 2 blocks, almost doubling his boards and getting about 50 percent more points and blocks in about 50 percent more minutes.

Unfortunately for Miami, Bosh is unavailable and they really don’t have anyone that can replace Whiteside’s defense and rebounding. For Toronto, Biyombo has been M.I.A. so far in the second round and they will be hoping he steps up once again in Valanciunas’ absence to give them the rim protection the Heat no longer have.

As Lowry noted about Game Three, it’ll be a guards’ game from now on. Wade and Dragic versus Lowry and DeRozan. The Heat guard duo averaging 27.5 points per game during the regular season and 36.9 points per game during this year’s playoffs. The Raptors guard duo averaging 44.7 points per game during the regular season, but only 34.1 points per game in the postseason.

Fortunately for Toronto, both of their guards appear to have reacquired their scoring touch, DeRozan averaging 22.8 points over his last four games and Lowry’s break out 33 point performance in Game Three.

Game Four will end up as DeRozan predicted, the team that wants it the most will get it, but this time at least the Raptors will be ready. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, there are no excuses in the playoffs.

“(The Heat will be) going out there and lay(ing) everything they have out there on the line and we got to go out there with that same intensity because they sure don’t want to go down 3-1,” DeRozan said.

Taking everything into consideration, the ESPN Basketball Power index odds look about right and that makes Game Four little more than a coin flip.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Some Lowry Daggers Puts The Raptors In Charge Of The Series

The Toronto Raptors took back home court advantage in their second round playoff series with the Miami Heat on Saturday with a 95-91 win at American Airlines Arena in Game Three as a succession of Kyle Lowry daggers overshadowed a huge night by Dwyane Wade.

Miami Heat Dwyane Wade

“Kyle Lowry hit some big shots,” Dwyane Wade said. “DeMar DeRozan hit some big shots as well, but Kyle hit some daggers.”

The game started out taking a page from the script in Toronto as the Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas was too much for the Heat big man Hassan Whiteside to stop and things were about to get worse when Whiteside twisted a knee and had to leave the game in the second quarter. With no one to even slow him down, Valanciunas had a 16 point 10 rebound double-double at the half.

The Heat’s defense has been built around Whiteside and without him manning the middle, this series could be over pretty quickly.

“Right now we don’t know about Hassan who is a big part of what we do, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have a series to play and Toronto, they don’t care, no one cares,” Wade said. “So, we have to figure out a way in Game Four to put a game plan together that is going to help us win the game.”

Whiteside didn’t return to the game and left the building wearing a full cast on his injured leg. Reasonable speculation suggesting he’s done for the season. The only hope for the Heat comes from Valanciunas leaving the game in the third quarter after turning an ankle. The Raptors center is day-to-day, but Miami might not have to face him in Game Four.

Unfortunately for Miami, in a guard dominated game it’s the East’s highest scoring duo of Lowry and DeRozan versus Goran Dragic and Wade with the Raptors fourth year guards Cory Joseph and Terrence Ross up against the rookies Josh Richardson and Justice Winslow or possibly (like in Game Three) Gerald Green. In the guard dominated fourth quarter of Game Three, it was the Raptors guards coming out on top.

“Whiteside’s out, JV is out, it was a guard game today so the floor opened up a lot more,” Lowry said. “I felt like (my) shot was there last game to be honest and I felt in was just a matter of time and me shooting the shots for them to go down.”

Without big men dominating in the paint for the first time in the Raptors playoffs, Lowry was back to being his old self and that’s bad news for Miami. This series was close with Lowry shooting 30 percent from the field and looking frustrated on drives to the rim, with him hitting shots like in the regular season, it won’t be close any longer.

“I have never lost faith in (Lowry),” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said for the umpteenth time during this year’s playoffs. “I’ve said this, he’s struggled, but you don’t forget how to shoot and we needed that. We needed him to be Kyle and he was Kyle tonight.”

Lowry finished with 33 points on 11-19 shooting from the field and he made five three-pointers with that smooth easy stroke the Raptors have come to rely on. The shooting slump is over. Lowry is back.

Toronto was in this exact same position in the first round against the Pacers after winning Game Three in Indiana to go up 2-1 in that series. However, the Pacers weren’t about to let Toronto embarrass them in Game Four and the playoff inexperienced Raptors weren’t ready. This time they know what to expect.

“Understanding that that team is coming out extremely hard,” DeRozan said. “They going out there and lay everything they have out there on the line and we got to go out there with that same intensity because they sure don’t want to go down 3-1.”

Toronto took back home court advantage convincingly in Game Three and the Heat are in trouble if Whiteside can’t return to action as expected. However, Wade showed he can still influence the outcome of a game almost by himself with that 38 point performance in Game Three, but that’s almost, someone else will need to step up big time in Game Four to stop the Raptors from going up 3-1 heading back to Toronto.



Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.




NBA Heat Dwyane Wade and Raptors DeMar DeRozan

How The Raptors Can Beat The Heat In Game Two

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors are in the second round of the playoffs for the first time in over a decade, but that isn’t enough for these guys. In Game Two the Raptors want to show they can beat the Heat and advance to the next round.

The big story coming out of Tuesday night’s Game One loss to the Miami Heat was not the fact that Kyle Lowry couldn’t hit the side of a barn door with his shot. They lost in overtime 102-96 after coming back to tie the game at 90 on Lowry’s miracle half court shot and only lost in the extra period because the Heat’s superstar Dwyane Wade took over.

Unlike their Game One loss to Indiana where it looked like someone forgot to tell them that the playoffs had started, this time they competed and all they need to do is clean up some things and they’ll be fine.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey mentioned in his post game comments Tuesday night that there were some stretches in the game where they didn’t execute on the offensive and defensive end of the floor, but he did like their fight and that the tempo of the game being a lot faster than the Indiana series was a benefit to Toronto. As long as they execute in certain situations they would be all right.

The one Heat player who killed them Tuesday night was guard Goran Dragic.

It looked like Dragic could be the Paul George in this series. He was 10-for-20 from the field in Game One and was three-of-four from behind the three-point line for a game high 26 points. Adding in Wade’s 24 points and the guard duo combined for 50 points giving the Heat they type of backcourt offense that Lowry and DeMar DeRozan usually give the Raptors on a regular basis.

In the third quarter Dragic and Wade combined for 19 of the 22 points the Heat scored.

As a team the Heat shot 44.9 percent from the field and they were 72.7 percent from behind the arc and that became the theme of the Raptors Wednesday’s practice, to work on making stops to the Heat’s outside shooting.

“It wasn’t a focus coming in, but it’s a definite focus now,” DeMarre Carroll said. “(Dragic) opened up our eyes. We have to prepare for him, just like we have to prepare for Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson. I think we’ve got to prepare for everything, one through five, on their team because they’re kind of similar to us in some ways. They all can score.”

Carroll also said that he was a little ticked off at the way Dragic was holding and pushing off on Raptors defenders before driving to the hoop and he made that known to the refs.

“I’ve got to keep my money. My wife told me I’ve got to buy Pampers and milk and all those other things,” Carroll added. “But, nah, I’m just telling the ref, you know, just watch out for certain things. But they did a good job, it wasn’t the refs’ fault. We as athletes put the refs in a tough position because we always complain. So, I think they did a good job.”

If the Raptors can clean up the defense on the Heat’s guards and don’t forget forward Joe Johnson who only had 16 points but could go off a quick 30 points at any time. If they have help available on the defensive end, Casey said they will be fine.

“We can do a better job of having help ready and available, bringing help from different situations, different areas, getting back in front of (Wade and Johnson),” Casey said.

So unlike the Game One loss to the Pacers where the Raptors had a laundry list of mistakes to correct, focusing on the Dragic and Wade combo should mean the Raptors will be able to beat the Heat in this series.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA MIami Heat Chris Bosh

Heat Confirm Chris Bosh Is Done For The Season

By Frank McLean

In a joint statement issued by the Miami Heat and Chris Bosh late Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Bosh will not play in this year’s NBA playoffs.

“The Miami Heat and Chris Bosh announce that Chris will not be playing in the remainder of the 2016 NBA Playoffs,” the statement read. “The Heat, Chris, the doctors and medical team have been working together throughout this process and will continue to do so to return Chris to playing basketball as soon as possible.”

This puts to rest any thought of Bosh returning to play against his former Toronto Raptors team in their second round playoff series.

Bosh would have loved to play against his former organization. When I talked to him when the Heat were in Toronto just before the All-Star teams were announced he told me how much he was hoping to be selected and play in the game in the city where his NBA career started.

Then not long after that game Bosh developed the clots again for the second time in as many years and as a result did not play in the Heat’s final 29 games of the regular season and the playoffs so far.

However, there have been hints Bosh wants to play and he is physically able to do so.

Last week Bosh and his wife Adrienne posted pictures on instagram of him shooting free throws to show the world he’s ok to play. Then on Tuesday before the Heat and Raptors played their first game of their playoff series Bosh made a request of the Player’s Association to have a meeting with the Heat to discuss the matter. It’s been a tug of war between Bosh’s own doctors who say Chris is fine to play while the Heat’s medical staff are saying not so fast.

Athletes in all types of college and professional sports have had to retire due to blood clots based on the fear of dying out on the playing field. So you can understand the caution the Heat have taken in putting Bosh back on the floor. Especially since this has happened for the second year in a row.

The NBA as well as the Heat don’t want a tragedy to occur on the court to anyone and that is something teammate Luol Deng said when speaking with ESPN.com.

“Sometimes, the organization feels like they’re trying to protect the person,” Deng said. “It’s not just a decision by the organization, it’s also the doctors that they trust in. And at the same time, I understand Chris has his own doctors that he trusts in. At the end of the day, it’s got to be between them and sitting down and figuring this out. But I can’t say who’s right and who’s wrong, until you know exactly what’s going on, because you’re going to hear this and you’re going to hear that.”

Bosh was in Toronto with Heat offering support on the bench during Game One and will do that for the rest of the playoffs. He was at Wednesday’s practice at the Air Canada Centre but did not speak to the media.

It’s too bad Bosh won’t get a chance to play. You know Raptors fans want to boo him for leaving them to go to South Beach.

The decision the Heat made was a smart one for them and it’s the best interests of one of their player. The most important thing for Bosh is to live a long life with his wife and young child. That’s more important than basketball.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.




NBA Miami Heat Luol Deng

Miami Heat Are Charging Towards The Playoffs With Luol Deng

By Frank McLean

The Southeast Division leading Miami Heat came into Toronto Saturday night winners of nine of their last 12 games as they flew in overnight from Chicago for the second night of a back-to-back after beating the Bulls 118-96.

They took the Toronto Raptors into overtime before bowing out 112-104 led by their newly acquired Raptors killer Joe Johnson’s 28 points and veteran Luol Deng with 20 points, while missing Dwayne Wade who had played in the Chicago game despite a thigh bruise and Chris Bosh who is still recovering from a second bout of blood clots.

The Heat are all of a sudden are now in fourth place in the Eastern Conference a half game up on the hard charging fifth place Charlotte Hornets and game back of the third place Boston Celtics.

So what`s the reason for their success since the All Star break?

I sought out my old friend Miami Heat Spanish radio voice Jose Paneda to find out why.

“Everybody on the team has stepped up their game,” Paneda said. “But they have changed the way they run their offense. They are using Luol Deng a lot. They have him running along the wing cutting to his left along the baseline and feeding him the ball.”

If you had a chance to watch the game, you would have seen the Heat ran that exact same play on their first basket of the game and for Deng’s big three point shot near the end of the fourth quarter forced the game into overtime. Deng has nearly doubled his production since the All-Star break to 17.5 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists over the last 13 games.

“Josh Richardson is getting better and improving as the season goes along,” Paneda added.

The night before in Chicago the rookie guard out of the University of Tennessee scored a career high 22 points in the win against the Bulls.

One key move that the Heat have made was to pick up guard Joe Johnson who signed on February 27th after being bought out of his contract by the Brooklyn Nets.

“He fits in what we do offensively and defensively,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. “We were prepared to go with what we had on our roster. We have always liked Johnson as a player and when we were able to get someone like him we very happy to do so.”

Three other teams were interested in acquiring Johnson including Toronto, Oklahoma City and Cleveland.

Miami was the best fit for Johnson. You could see the way he ran the floor in Saturday’s loss to the Raptors. He had his best game as a member of the Heat in Toronto.

The one thing when you look at the Eastern Conference standings is that there is only a separation of five games between third place and eighth place.

“You are a three game losing streak from being in ninth place and a three game winning streak from being in third,” Paneda noted.

The Heat are growing as a team as they head down the stretch to the playoffs, Luol Deng’s comments after Saturday’s game show that.

“They are a very good team,” Deng said about the Raptors. “There is a reason why they have a good record. But I think early in the season that would have been a different game, an easy game for them, and that just shows how much better we’ve gotten. We’ll take a positive out of it and just keep getting better.”

This Heat team could be a giant pain in the butt in the playoffs with Joe Johnson, a healthy Dwayne Wade and if Chris Bosh recovers.



DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.