The NBA is down to single digit games left in the 2016/17 regular season and surprisingly this period of the year can be one of the most lucrative for bettors. Playoff seeds are up for grabs for some squads while others are either focused on resting up for their already clinched playoff berth or just making plans on which golf course will be the first to hit when Summer vacation starts in a little over a week.
The Heat vs. Raptors game on Friday night in Toronto pits one team struggling for their playoff lives versus another who is anxious to get the postseason started already. Miami is one of 6 teams in the East who could finish up the year anywhere from the 6th seed to the worst spot in the draft lottery. Toronto, on the other hand, has played some of their best basketball of the season and has an outside chance at the 2 spot in the East.
The Heat have gone only 5-5 over a 10 game stretch at a time when they should be playing their best ball of the season. Not only that, Miami is losing games they should win including back-to-back home losses to the Knicks and Nuggets on 3/31 and 4/2. The Heat even suffered a devastating 101-84 loss to Toronto in Miami despite the fact that the Raptors were playing their 5th game in 8 nights.
Toronto, on the other hand, is streaking in the positive direction to end the regular season. They've gone 8-2 over a 10-game stretch and rattled off 6 straight wins before a 3/29 loss against Charlotte.
After Toronto was able to dismantle the Heat in Miami their last matchup, it would seem they are simply the better team for this season's rosters. The season series is actually 2-1 in favor of the Raptors. The Raptors are streaking nicely and it's always tough to get a W as a road team at the Air Canada Centre.
Miami needs the win to stay alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race. That being said, the game is also important for Toronto as they sat 3 games out of the 1 seed with only 5 to play. A loss in Indiana on 4/4 or in Detroit on 4/5 could basically put the pipe dreams of a #1 or a #2 Eastern Conference seed to bed for Toronto and they could see Friday night's game as a wash while opting to rest players.
That brings up another game angle. Friday night's tilt will be the 3rd in four nights for Toronto whereas it's just the 2nd in 5 nights for the Heat. In the 3/23 matchup in South Beach, Toronto was supposed to lay an egg as they went on a late season vacation. Instead, the rematch 2 weeks later at home is where Toronto finds their R&R. The pick is the Miami Heat as it's make or break time North of the border.