2016-NBA-Play offs-Toronto at Atlanta game 4 preview

Eastern Conference Game 4
Toronto at Miami (TNT, 8:00 p.m. ET)
Raptors lead series 2-1

After splitting two overtime games in Canada, the pair played to another close call in Game 3 on Saturday and Toronto came out on top with a 95-91 victory over Miami as a 5 ½-point road underdog.

All-Star Kyle Lowry finally found his shot for the Raptors and finished with 33 points on 11-of-19 shooting. Dwyane Wade posted a game-high 38 points for the Heat in the loss and has easily been the best player on the court in this series.

The bigger news coming out of Saturday’s outcome was on the injury front and both teams were deeply affected in the middle. Heat center Hassan Whiteside sprained his knee and is listed as day to day but he’s not expected to play Monday. Since he’s awaiting a huge offseason contract, most are assuming you won’t see him for the rest of the series. Also, Toronto announced on Sunday that its center Jonas Valanciunas will miss the remainder of the conference semifinals with a sprained right ankle.

The loss of Whiteside (28 blocks) will certainly affect the Heat defensively and a trio of Udonis Haslem, Josh McRoberts and Amar’e Stoudemire will have to fill those big shoes.

Valanciunas isn’t necessarily known for his defense but you could argue that he’s been the best Toronto player in this series. Prior to getting hurt, he was averaging 18.3 PPG and 12.7 RPG against Miami.

For what it’s worth, the Raptors went 16-6 without the big man during the regular season while the Heat were 6-3 without Whiteside.

Even with key injuries to both sides, Miami opened as a five-point home favorite for Game 4 and that number has been pushed up to 5 ½ at most betting shops as of Monday morning.

Considering the underdog has gone 2-1 straight up and 3-0 against the spread in this series, I’m a little surprised that Miami has caught the early attention. I understand that they face a must-win situation but the Heat have gone 3-2 at home in the playoffs and including the results from this series, Toronto has won seven of the last 10 encounters between the pair.

For those believing that Miami won’t drop three straight, make a note that Charlotte beat them three consecutive times in the first round before the Heat rallied to win Game 6 and 7. The money-line for Monday has the Heat listed at minus-240 (Bet $100 to win $41) while the takeback on Toronto is 2/1.

The total for Game 4 opened at 188 and after the injury news came out on Sunday afternoon, the ‘over’ caught received attention and pushed the number up to 189 and even 190 at a few outfits. The ‘under’ has gone 2-1 in the first three games and the lone ‘over’ connected in Game 1 thanks to the bomb from Lowry that forced the extra session.

The obvious handicap is that both teams are going to push the pace with small ball since the big men are out and that will lead to easy buckets. While I agree with that theory, neither of these teams are the Golden State Warriors.

Miami started the playoffs with 123 and 115 against Charlotte in the first round but has averaged 92.6 points per game since then which has resulted in a 7-1 ‘under’ record. Toronto has seen the ‘under’ go 8-2 in the postseason, which includes a 4-0 record on the road.

After Monday’s contest the series heads back to Toronto with Game 5 taking place from Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.