Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors Pick & Prediction APRIL 14th 2024

The Miami Heat have a lot to play for on the final game of the regular season Sunday.

Miami (45-36), hosting the Toronto Raptors for the second straight game, is still competing for a top-six berth in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

The Heat currently sit eighth in the Eastern Conference, one game behind the Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers. Teams finishing seventh through 10th will head to the play-in tournament.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said he wants to see his team play “connected, playing for each other and playing a spirited game to our identity.”

“That’s all I care about right now,” he added. “Because when we get to that, we can beat anybody, anywhere, any time.”

Toronto (25-56) has long been out of playoff contention. The Raptors fell 125-103 at Miami on Friday for their third straight loss.

“They’re a good team,” Toronto’s RJ Barrett said of the Heat. “They move the ball.”

The Heat seem to be getting healthier just in time for the postseason.

After missing 20 straight games due to a foot injury, Heat guard Tyler Herro has returned to the lineup. That gives Miami its top three scorers: Jimmy Butler (20.9), Herro (20.9) and Bam Adebayo (19.3).

The Heat are still waiting on the return of two injured players: Terry Rozier (16.4) and Duncan Robinson (12.9).

Adebayo leads the Heat in overall rebounds (10.4) and offensive boards (2.2), and Butler tops the squad in assists (5.0).

As for the Raptors, they are 11-29 on the road, and their overall record is the fifth worst in franchise history.

This is Toronto’s worst season since 2010-11 (22-60).

The Raptors are still rebuilding. Since winning the NBA title in 2019, they have won just one playoff series.

Darko Rajakovic, a Serbian native who coached in Europe for 17 years, is in his first season as an NBA head coach.

Rajakovic and the Raptors are building around four young players: Immanuel Quickley, 24; Barrett, 23; Scottie Barnes, 22; and rookie Gradey Dick, 20.

Barnes, who is out due to a fractured left hand, improved in every key stat in his third season in the NBA. He is averaging 19.9 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists, 1.3 steals per game and shooting 47.5 percent from the field, 34.1 percent from 3-point range and 78.1 percent from the charity stripe.

Quickley, who was a key backup with the New York Knicks, is now a Raptors starter. He averaged 15.0 points and 2.5 assists with the Knicks but is averaging 18.6 points and 6.8 dimes with Toronto.

Barrett, also acquired from the Knicks, leads Toronto’s current roster with 21.8 points per game since the trade.

Dick, who was Toronto’s first-round pick in 2023 — 13th overall — is averaging 8.4 points in 59 games, including 16 starts. His shooting percentages are strong for a rookie: 87.2 percent on free throws, 49.5 on 2-pointers and 36.9 on 3-pointers.

Rajakovic said he’s all in on developing these young players.

“Seeing players grow, that’s always been my biggest reward,” he said. “That’s how I operate.”

–Field Level Media

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