The Miami Heat are one win away from the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. All that stands in their way of doing that is the Toronto Raptors. Is there any hope that the Raptors can end their streak Sunday afternoon?
The easy way of saying this is that the Heat look like one of the best teams in league history right now and that the Raptors are in fourth place in the Atlantic Division, 25 games behind Miami. But stranger things have happened: even in the last two weeks, Miami has taken on worse teams than Toronto and come close to losing. Against a Magic team that's been completely hapless since the season's opening weeks, the Heat needed a LeBron James layup at the buzzer to get the win. And Wednesday against the 76ers, a Spencer Hawes missed open layup at the rim and a Dwyane Wade putback gave the Heat a four-point win.
So do the Raptors have a shot? There's a few things that go in their favor.
For starters, Amir Johnson has been playing out of his mind recently. The 26-year-old power forward/center has started the last three games and responded, scoring 17 points and grabbing 16 boards against the Cavaliers, then scoring 12 and ripping down a career-high 21 rebounds against Charlotte. This comes after a 23-point, 15-rebound performance against Golden State where he hit all ten shots he attempted. What makes these statlines interesting is that the majority of his work has come on the offensive glass: in those three games, he's had eight, six, and 12 offensive rebounds. Miami isn't an unbelievable defensive rebounding team -- they're 16th in the league, grabbing 73.32 of opponent's misses -- and Chris Bosh, who will likely end up matched up with Johnson, isn't a hugely gifted defensive rebounder.
Second, Toronto doesn't turn the ball over a lot. For their offensive woes, they only turn the ball over on 12.63 percent of their possessions, the third-best number in the league. Miami are ballhawks, forcing the sixth-highest percentage of turnovers in the league, so a team that doesn't turn over the ball much hurts their gameplan.
Lastly, they've won three of five, including two by double-digits, snapping generally bad play including a five-game losing streak.
But let's not forget: this is the Miami Heat. They've won both games in the season series -- one a 100-85 win behind 30 points, eight boards, and seven assists for LeBron James, and one 123-116 win behind 31 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists from James, plus 35 points from Dwyane Wade. Yeah.
And Bosh, the forgotten member of the Big Three, has gone off against his old team. He's averaged 27.7 points against Toronto in three games at the Air Canada Centre.
And although it's nice that Toronto has won three games of five, they've come against three of the league's worst teams in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Charlotte. Not exactly on the same level as the Heat.
Most likely, the 2007-2008 Houston Rockets will have to throw out their second-rate champagne that they keep on ice to commemorate their second-longest win streak in NBA history. But there's some hope for Toronto, and we'll see if the Raptors can keep the Heat from getting closer to history.
Game time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: TSN2/Sun Sports