The Heat Raptors Series


The Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors are in the middle of what's turning out to be an epic playoff series. They've played four games and three have gone to overtime with the one exception still being tied after three quarters and going down to the wire. Each team has won twice. We're set for what promises to be an exciting conclusion to the series, with Game 5 on Wednesday night, Game 6 on Friday and the potential Game 7 on Sunday. Let's take a look at what has shaped this series for bettors thus far.

The biggest trend has been to play to the Under. Three games have been Unders and the one exception, Game 1, was Under at the close of regulation before overtime points pushed it Over. But oddsmakers are adjusting. The Game 1 total was set at 192.5. The early lines for Wednesday's Game 5 are down to 188.5.

Miami has also narrowly gotten the best of it from an ATS standpoint. The Heat have covered three of the four games, but here it needs to be pointed out that they required overtime to cover Game 4 at home, winning 94-87 as a 4.5 point favorite.

That's where we've been. Now where are we going the rest of this week? Injuries are playing a role. Each team lost its center after Game 3, Jonas Valanciunas for the Raptors, Hassan Whiteside for the Heat. Each players plays a similar role - the one who grabs double-digit rebounds to close out possessions on the defensive end and keep offensive ones alive for their teammates. For the time being, the fact they're both out makes it a wash but the injury report has to be monitored carefully - Whiteside has at least chance to return in this series while Valanciunas is done.

From Miami's standpoint, the biggest positive has been to watch Dwayne Wade turn back the clock. The 34-year-old who appeared to be on his last legs, as his knees betrayed him, has been electric in this series. He's averaging 27ppg and playing nearly forty minutes a game. He's shooting close to 50 percent.

Where Wade has been let down is in the play of his veteran supporting cast, particularly Joe Johnson. A pure scorer from the wings, Johnson is getting 15ppg, but is shooting 35 percent. That's a lot of shots to get only fifteen points. Luol Deng is averaging nine points a game. While he is a key defensive contributor, Deng and Johnson are the Heat players logging the most minutes. They simply have to do more, especially if Whiteside does not return and this becomes a battle of the perimeter and wings on the back end of the series. We can add to this the turnover problems of point guard Goran Dragic, who has an 11-to-14 assist-to-turnover ratio through the first four games.

Toronto's Kyle Lowry plays the most minutes for his team and he's not shy about shooting, even when he's off. Lowry played an amazing Game 3, as he trade blows with Wade and eventually came out on top. He score 33 points, hitting 5-for-8 from behind the arc and the Raptors won 95-91. But that's been the exception to the rule. In the other three games, Lowry has attempted twenty three-point shots and made two.

The NBA playoffs are a time for veterans and if the series comes down to a battle between Wade and Lowry, it's tough to be confident for Toronto.

But of course that's not all there is to the equation and the Raptors are getting consistent contributions from their supporting cast. DeMarre Carroll is the most notable. He doesn't get a lot of shots, but he hits 48 percent and is averaging 13ppg in this series. He's also hitting 7-for-16 behind the arc. He's the most efficient of the Toronto starts. Also noteworthy is Terrence Ross, who shoots at a clip not far behind Carroll.

And while the injury to Valanciunas is a blow, this could be the perfect opportunity for Bismark Biyombo to step up. The 6'9" center from the Congo who was the seventh overall pick in the draft five years ago, got his opportunity in Game 4 and crashed the glass relentlessly. In a series where Miami has no depth and its veterans beyond Wade are struggling, Biyombo could be a big X-factor for the Raptors.

That's the landscape as we head into the final 2-3 games of this terrific series. Can Miami get enough help that Wade's experience, competitiveness and big gamesmanship becomes the decisive factor? Or does Toronto's longer bench wear down the Heat and eventually prevail. The power of homecourt has the Raptors a slight favorite - their odds are 17-2 to win the Eastern Conference (which would presume upsetting Cleveland in the conference finals), while the Heat are slightly higher at 10-1.

I can tell you that I've watched all these games and then re-watched them to make sure I've studied every angle. I've broken down the numbers, using advanced data developed over my long career in handicapping. A series like this, where edges are found on the narrowest of margins is what separates successful bettors from those who flame out. Get with me and let's spend the rest of this week making some money on the Heat-Raptors.


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