MIAMI (AP) ”— The exhilaration of winning Game 7s was short-lived for Toronto and Miami.
It’s back-to-work time.
The Raptors play host to the Heat in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup in Toronto on Tuesday night, a series that starts a mere two days after both teams survived elimination games on their respective home floors. And the objective for both teams on Monday would be finding ways to get ready for a new opponent while keeping the same edge that helped them eliminate their last one.
“I don’t want them to be relaxed,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re not done. We have a tough Miami team coming in.”
Toronto finally ended its 15-year postseason series victory drought by holding off Indiana in a Game 7 that looked like it was slipping away in the final minutes. Miami’s trip to the second round was secured a bit more easily, as the Heat rolled past Charlotte by 33 points â” the fifth-largest margin in Game 7 history.
And Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan knows what sort of challenge Miami will bring.
“Veteran team,” DeRozan said. “Lot of guys who have been in these positions. It’s going to be another of these fought-hard series. We don’t expect anything less.”
There’s some irony in that Miami is heading to Toronto for the second round, since probably many thought the Heat season essentially ended there in February.
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh â” back in the city where his NBA career began â” were representing the Heat in the All-Star Game at Toronto, but Bosh’s weekend was derailed by what the team said was a calf strain. Turned out, it really was a blood clot that had been found, the malady ending Bosh’s regular season at the All-Star break for the second straight season.
The Heat rallied without Bosh and wound up as the No. 3 seed in the East.
“You have to go through the fire together,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s when you truly grow, when you face adversity together, you get to know each other for real. We’ve been through a lot this year. There have been a lot of emotions with that, but we are still standing.”
Here’s some of what to know going into the series:
THE SERIES: Miami leads the all-time series between the clubs, 49-26. But Toronto has won five of the last six meetings, holding Miami to 47 percent shooting or less in each of those games. It’s the first playoff matchup between the Heat and Raptors.
OH, BROTHER: Dorell Wright and Delon Wright faced off countless times in their lives, but never on the same NBA floor. That might change in this series. Dorell Wright rejoined the Heat as the regular season was ending, younger brother Delon Wright is a rookie with the Raptors. Dorell Wright wrote his brother a letter published by The Players’ Tribune as this season started, telling Delon that Toronto stars like Kyle Lowry and DeRozan â” his close friends for some time â” would have his back. “They reached out to me and let me know you’re in great hands,” Dorell Wright wrote at the time, when he was playing in China. “Do what they say. Follow their lead.”
BENCH MATCHUP: Miami’s backups got outscored 32-23, on average, by Charlotte’s reserves in that series. Toronto could be an issue for the Heat in that department as well; the Raptors outscored Indiana’s bench 34-27 on average in their matchup.
WADE WATCH: Wade comes into this series 17th on the NBA’s all-time playoff scoring list, at 3,614 points â” having just passed Wilt Chamberlain. He should climb a few more spots in this matchup. He’s 10 points away from passing Elgin Baylor, 29 from passing Scottie Pippen, 50 from passing Dirk Nowitzki and 88 from passing Magic Johnson. All this comes after a season where he went from 54th to 39th on the regular-season list. “Dwyane Wade is back to being a young Dwyane Wade. He is a handful,” Casey said.
COOL JOE: Heat forward Joe Johnson was a matchup nightmare for Toronto in the playoffs two years ago when Brooklyn ousted the Nets in the first round, winning Game 7 on the Raptors’ home floor. Johnson averaged 21.9 points in that 2014 series, and scored 50 points in his two games at Toronto this season (one with Brooklyn, the other with Miami).
EASY AS 1-2-3-4: This is the first time since 2010 that the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference made the second round. No. 1 Cleveland is taking on No. 4 Atlanta in the other East semi series, opposite Toronto-Miami.