Heat vs Raptors

The Miami Heat head into game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series knowing Chris Bosh is out for good. The Toronto Raptors have bigger issues to deal with: The heartbreak of the first game, and Kyle Lowry struggling at historical levels.

Bosh has been trying to make his way back to the floor after he was once again diagnosed with blood clots, but he’ll have to settle for sideline cheerleader and locker room motivator. He’ll be back in uniform, possibly, next season, but he’s not playing again in the playoffs. Moving the Heat forward is up to Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic and everyone else who has been doing a solid job without the team’s highest paid player.

While the Heat have gotten used to Bosh not being on the floor, the Raptors are struggling with Lowry playing so poorly. He did hit a magical half court shot to send game 1 into overtime, but the Heat still won 102-96. Lowry is averaging only 13 points (21.2 in the regular season) while shooting 30.6% from the field. Whether it’s an elbow issue or simply the playoffs being a bit too much for him, Lowry says the biggest pressure on him is from himself.

The Raptors might eventually turn to Cory Joseph, who scored 10 points in game 1 and is shooting 58% from the field in the postseason, to take over the point guard role for more minutes. Raptors players have said it makes no sense to turn their backs on Lowry, because they wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for his work in the regular season. But this isn’t some one-two-three game funk. Lowry, and DeMar DeRozan to a different degree, has been playing bad basketball in the playoffs, not cutting it on either end of the floor.

So while the Raptors backcourt is struggling, the Miami one is thriving. The Heat have now won two consecutive road games in the playoffs, with Wade and Dragic carrying the offensive load. Dragic has scored 51 points over the last two games and is averaging 15.6 points in only his second trip to the NBA postseason, and a first as a starter. Wade scored 24 points in game 1 and is averaging 19.6 points in the playoffs, looking as good as he has in maybe three or four years.

There’s more to this series than backcourts clashing, but it seems the Raptors can handle everything else, including Hassan Whiteside, who can’t dominate Jonas Valanciunas as easily as he has with other frontcourts. The backcourt difference is where this series might be decided, with four players who both teams turn to when the stakes are high. Right now, the Heat can completely trust their guard duo to make the right decisions and deliver. It’s very different for the Raptors, who once again kick off a series having to play catchup despite the home court being on their side.

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