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Heat vs. Raptors Game One Pick – NBA Playoffs

A team that had a whopping 15 blown fourth quarter leads for losses this season almost had one for the ages last night in San Antonio, but a few missed shots, an obviously missed call on Dion Waiters, and 15 seconds of chaos later – the Thunder escaped with a series-evening 99-98 win in one of the more remarkable two game turnarounds in recent memory without the home court advantage shifting.  Oklahoma City looked overmatched in Game One – and I fell for it as well.  I honestly though this series was destined for a five game Spurs victory.  But now, a few hours after the Game Two result, it is fair to call this series a complete toss-up.

It should lead to some great basketball in Oklahoma City this week for Games 3 and 4 as two of the best teams in the NBA square off with the pressure intensified.

Meanwhile, Cleveland shook off a week’s worth of rust in the last four minutes and finally put away the pesky Hawks.  This was a tie game more than halfway through the fourth, so don’t let the score fool you into thinking this was an easy win for the Eastern reigning champs.

The other Eastern Conference semi beings tonight as the Heat and Raptors have quick turnarounds after varying degrees of Game Seven angst (for the Heat, a pretty easy win, the Raptors, not so much) and get back to action.  There isn’t a real fatigue advantage/disadvantage situation, so who has the edge tonight?

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Today’s Free Pick:

Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors -5

The Heat looked amazing in Game Seven.  Dragic was excellent, Wade was effortless, and even Udonis Haslem got to party like it was 2006.  And that may be the key for Miami this season.  Not Haslem, but the “2006.”  If they get anything CLOSE to 2006 Dwyane Wade, this team can win the East.  If they get 2016 Wade on an off night, they could lose this series quickly.

Speaking of an “off night” the Raptors backcourt just collectively turned in about seven of them.  Neither Lowry or DeRozan were GOOD in the Pacers series – even when they were scoring, it was in a wildly inefficient manner.  DeRozan delivered some highlights in Game Seven, but he missed more than 20 shots in the process.

Much was made over Miami’s bench being outperformed by the Hornets, but in fairness, Charlotte is a little naturally deeper than Miami, so the minutes and shots align a little differently.  I think the bench matchups are much more equitable in this series and don’t think Miami will be at as big of a disadvantage.

Toronto, despite advancing, just never really seemed “right” that whole series.  Meanwhile, I think Game Five was a wakeup call for this Miami team, who has played desperate ever since.  Joe Johnson lit up Toronto in their playoff series last year with the Nets.  Look for him to be an X-factor in this series.  If he plays well, Miami has far more offense than the Raps.  I think that’ll be the eventual difference in Miami advancing.

I’m not sure they steal Game One outright, but they have a really good shot – and  I definitely like them with the points.

Free Pick: Miami Heat +5