Grab The Points With Heat As Your NBA Pick Against Raptors

Sterling Xie

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 2:14 PM GMT

Tuesday, May. 3, 2016 2:14 PM GMT

After each team pulled out Game 7 home wins, the smart money is on Miami to cover the spread in Game 1 at Toronto. Visit inside to see a breakdown of this game & get your NBA pick. 

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Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors
Although both higher seeds squeaked by into the Eastern Conference semis, both the Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors saw their flaws unveiled in seven-game slugfests. Both teams saw shooting outages at various points in the first round, leading to some ugly losses against inferior opponents. In forecasting Game 1, the edge will likely go to the team that can diversify its lineups and sets more against a new opponent.

In that instance, Miami looks like a nice value as a decided road underdog. The line has not moved since the Raptors opened as 4.5-point favorites on the NBA odds boards. During the regular season, Toronto was 23-18 against the spread at the Air Canada Centre, the third-best ATS home record in the league. Given that Miami was a mediocre 20-21 ATS on the road, it might be tempting to lay the points with the higher-seeded Raptors, especially given their reassuring Game 7 showing against the Indiana Pacers.

However, the larger trends show some potentially crippling shooting woes from Kyle Lowry and Demar Derozan. Toronto’s All-Star backcourt duo shot roughly 32 percent from the floor against Indiana, as the Pacers consistently forced both players into inefficient mid-range pull-ups, which were not generated within the flow of the normal offense. Derozan in particular was inefficient, gobbling up 30.2 percent of Toronto’s possessions through his usage rate and accruing a -8.9 net rating. Lowry was closer to even at -0.4, but was curiously passive and shot below 30 percent three times in the series.

Those numbers are ominous for a team which relies heavily on its top two guards for shot creation. Miami is as averse to the three-pointer as any team in the league, but if the Raptors do not punish the Heat with the three-ball, the games are more likely to play out at Miami’s pace. Moreover, Erik Spoelstra has unearthed some playable small ball lineups in Chris Bosh’s absence the past few months, with rookie Josh Richardson providing the Heat with some semblance of spacing. Against the Charlotte Hornets, Richardson shot 36 percent from three, emerging with a +7.6 net rating in the series. With the slashing shot creation capabilities of Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, even a modicum of shooting opens the floor significantly for Miami.

 

Conclusion
The game’s critical factor will be how Toronto adjusts to Miami’s impenetrability at the rim. The Heat stifled the Hornets at the rim in the first round, holding Charlotte to 40.4 percent shooting from within five feet. That’s an impossibly stingy figure—for reference, the New York Knicks led the league in that category during the regular season at 55.3 percent—but the Heat were also the seventh-best team at defending the rim during the regular season. Toronto struggled mightily from within five feet against Indiana, shooting just 50.5 percent, so it is difficult to envision to Raptors generating many easy looks with Hassan Whiteside defending the rim this series.

Whiteside’s impact on the offensive end could be a differentiating factor in this series, as the Raptors have no stretch big man capable of pulling Miami’s seven-footer away from the paint. Toronto may use defensive ace Bismack Biyombo on Whiteside to stay competitive in the post and on the glass, but Biyombo’s offensive inefficacy cramps Toronto’s already struggling offense.

Toronto had a difficult enough time creating good looks against an inferior Indiana team, and unless Lowry and/or Derozan turns around his jump shot, it is easy to imagine the Raptors facing similar quandaries in this series. Ironically, after Bosh’s injury, the Heat began to perform better. By net rating, Miami was a better team than Toronto after the All-Star break, with a slight 1.6-point edge. Toronto’s homecourt advantage may provide the difference over the course of this ultra-tight series, but for Game 1, it does not appear as though bookmakers have adjusted. Grab the points with Miami as your NBA pick before the lines in this series move closer to a pick ‘em.

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Free NBA Pick: Miami +4.5
Best Line Offered: at YouWager

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