Key Matchups Define This Tough Series
This may potentially be the most exciting series in the Eastern Conference .
There are many factors to pay attention to over the course of 48 minutes.
You have a clash in the paint with tough centers in Hassan Whiteside and Jonas Valanciunas, a matchup of underrated point guards with Goran Dragic and Kyle Lowry, all-star wings in Derozan and Wade, and a good amount of role players that actually matter, this has the makings to be a fun series.
Both teams showed the ability to will themselves to some tough and close wins during the season with many games coming down to the 4th quarter. With that being said this matchup has the potential to be a 4 game sweep or a 7 game series. Expect the key matchups to be the main storylines of this series.
Whiteside vs Valanciunas
*Photo via Raptors Republic
Hassan Whiteside can have a few screws loose at times, and Valanciunas is no pushover and isn’t one to back down. When the Raptors feature their big man, he can put up 20 and 10 with the best of them. Will Whiteside sit back and let that happen? Most likely not. He likes to bully his way in the paint on both offense and defense, and I predict these players will clash and butt heads throughout this series. A good way to neutralize Whiteside is to get him into foul trouble. He is a shark for blocks so he can easily be baited by pump fakes.
Dragic vs Lowry
*Photo via USA Today
Two underrated point guards who are key cogs and leaders for their teams will be facing off all series. Their play may be the tipping point as to which team wins or loses games. They both can score, facilitate, drive and get to the foul line, if needed. I would only give Lowry the edge on his defensive play. Whoever gains the advantage of this matchup will help propel this team to a series win. Look out for Lowry to be aggressive on both ends of the court and Dragic to push the pace when he can.
Wade vs DeRozan
*Photo via AP
We all know what Wade can do, he’s a 3 time champion, multi-time all-star and legend on the court. He has the passion and will to push his team as far as he can and knows what it's like to be in the playoffs with everything on the line. All things considered DeRozan doesn’t quite have the same credentials, however he is young and on a hungry team. The fact that Demar has to put his team on his back as the anointed leader, he perhaps will feel pressure that he isn’t used to. With Wade in full playoff mode, can Derozan overcome the pressure? That remains to be seen
*Photo via Raptors Republic
A key element to both teams are their role players
Miami has Luol Deng, Josh Richardson, Gerald Green, Justise Winslow and others. Toronto has Terrance Ross, Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll and others.
When it comes down to it, if the stars and leaders on a team can’t make things happen, the role players need to step up. Whether it be scoring points, grabbing rebounds, creating an extra opportunities or preventing them, hitting 3s or just playing tough defense, the others are key.
On paper and on the court, I give the edge to the Miami Heat. They have a great mix of veterans as well as youth, and I believe experience will triumph when it counts. The team has a tendency to step up when needed and they play very well together. Toronto can get hot but sometimes when they get cold they can fall a little flat. Ross can hit the 3, Joseph can be a spark off the bench and Carroll can provide “3 and D” play as well. But, the Heat have too many options to fall back on, especially under pressure.
This will be an exciting series to watch, especially with all the elements and factors I mentioned. Several games may even go down to the wire as we saw in Game 1. However, even with the competitiveness of both teams, I think the Heat will pull through at the end. Don’t be surprised if this is a sweep or 4-1 series. A tough one but still possible.