The reigning NBA champion Toronto Raptors head to Miami to face the Heat Thursday in a game that many are expecting to be a close one. The Heat head into this game exceeding expectations with a record of 24-9, ranking third in the Eastern Conference.
The Raptors have had quite the season as well, even with losing Kawhi Leonard in the offseason and Pascal Siakam to injury, the Raptors are 23-11, ranking fourth in the East. The last time these two teams met was on Dec. 3, a game in which Miami was a 5.5-point underdog and ended up winning 121-110. This time Miami is favored by five, so clearly experts think this will be a close game, but who to pick?
Battling Through Injuries
The Raptors have had a stellar year thus far, as most people wrote them off when the Clippers signed Leonard from them in the offseason. Coming off a win against Cleveland, the Raptors will look to take down one of the hottest teams in the NBA in the Heat. Unfortunately, they’ll still be down three starters, which doesn’t bode well for the Raptors or the spread.
Toronto has averaged 111.5 points per game and has shot well from three. Without some key scorers, the Raptors could be in trouble against the 12th-ranked Heat defense. Toronto is 7-3 in its last 10 games against the Heat, but most of those wins were against a different Miami squad.
In their last meeting, Toronto was favored to win but ended up losing by 11. Although the Raptors have a great record straight-up against the Heat, their record against the spread is 2-7 in their last nine against Miami.
The Heat’s Rising In Miami
The Heat are one of the league’s best teams, as only a year after winning just 39 games, they’re on track to be the third seed in the East. This recent success comes with the addition of Jimmy Butler, who seems to have found his calling in Miami.
The downside to the game against the Raptors is that Justise Winslow has been downgraded to doubtful, leaving the Heat without one of their leading rebounders.
The Heat are nearly unstoppable at home, boasting a 15-1 record, and with the Raptors without some key scorers, I can’t see the Heat losing this one. Miami has been awful against the spread lately, going 1-4 in their last five games, but covering five points against an injury-plagued Raptors team shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Miami’s coming off a brutal loss to the Washington Wizards, a game where Miami turned over the ball 19 times and couldn’t get the offense going against a depleted Wizards team. After a couple days of rest, the Heat will look to further solidify their spot in the East by beating the visiting Raptors.
Pick and Prediction
This game’s pretty tough; the Raptors have played well even without some starters and are coming off a morale-boosting win against the Cavaliers. The Heat, however, are coming off a tough loss after turning the ball over 19 times against the Wizards but are looking to right the ship. The Raptors have bested the Heat in the majority of their last 10 games, but this is a much different Miami squad.
Heading into Thursday, Miami’s record against the spread leaves much to be desired. There is a reason as to why I’m picking the Heat, though, as the Heat are 8-0-1 against the spread in their last nine games on Thursday and 5-2 ATS in their last seven at home against Toronto. With a record like that and an injury-plagued Raptors team, I have to pick the Heat -5.