With just under a dozen games to go in the 2016/17 regular season, the Toronto Raptors have some decisions to make. As it stands, they sit comfortably in the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference with a 3.5 game lead over Atlanta. They are also currently aligned to play the Hawks, whom they've gone just 1-2 against this season. Is Toronto better off to try and wipe out the 1.5 game deficit that the Wizards hold so the Raptors can face the Pacers in the first round (who they beat by 25 points this week)?
The Heat aren't just “the other team” in this matchup as they're scratching and clawing for the 8th seed and a matchup with Lebron and the Cavs in the 1st round of the playoffs. The Heat are percentage points behind the Pistons for that slot and Miami needs this game undoubtedly.
The Heat have played their way into playoff contention after being an afterthought much of the regular season. Miami put up a 7-3 record over a 10 game stretch and have been a solid 6-1 at home in March. The Heat should be well rested as Thursday night's matchup marks the end of a long 5-game home stand in South Beach. Miami's 23rd ranked offense has been clicking during the stand too, posting 120+ point games in 2 games and 104 in another.
Toronto seems to be in the process of maintaining their seed as the regular season winds down. They've gone 5-5 in their last 10 including 3-3 on the road. Toronto has a top 10 offense on the season which could put Miami's 5th ranked D to the test.
Early signs would point towards the total going over, especially with Toronto's efficient offense, Miami's recent scoring surge, and both teams being well rested (4 games in 7 nights with no back-to-back). The line could be boosted to reflect this 'over' trend, however, plus both teams have solid PPG defenses (Miami 5th and Toronto 7th). Not only that, the two previous matchups between the squads this season have both gone 'under' the total.
Therefore the side is the play here. Toronto should continue to push forward with the status quo and might even enjoy this late season vacation to South Beach (especially after playing in Chicago on Tuesday). For Miami on the other hand, every game over the next two weeks is a must-have, especially on their home court. Thus, the Heat are the pick.