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Raptors set to meet depleted Heat

Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (right) shoots around Heat forward Duncan Robinson (left) during the first half NBA action at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Jan. 2, 2020.
Raptors guard Fred VanVleet (right) shoots around Heat forward Duncan Robinson (left) during the first half NBA action at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Jan. 2, 2020.

Game 1 of the NBA’s restart was a resounding success for the Toronto Raptors but another test has arrived quickly. After beating LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, the defending NBA champions have a matinee slated for Monday (1:30 p.m. ET, SN1) vs. the Miami Heat.

Miami sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, but just two games behind the Boston Celtics, making the Heat a potential second-round playoff opponent for the Raptors. It’s unclear which version of the Heat will be on the court on Monday in Orlando though. Miami’s top two players, superstar Jimmy Butler and rising force Bam Adebayo both have issues, as does regular thorn in the side point guard Goran Dragic. Adebayo (quadriceps) and Dragic (back) are both probable, meaning they will likely play, but Butler – not on the injury report at all as of 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday – was not at practice on Sunday. Though the team said it was an excused absence, forward Jae Crowder told reporters: “We want to talk to him as soon as he gets out of quarantine or whatever he’s in.”

“It’s definitely a curveball for all of us to hear stuff like what’s going on with him,” Crowder said. “You never know what to expect.”

Butler was in the lineup on Saturday when Miami drilled the solid Denver Nuggets 125-105 and led the team with 22 points and seven assists. Adebayo had a strong game as well.

Toronto beat the Lakers 107-92 that night and was exceptional defensively, which pleased former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol.

“They didn’t have many easy buckets at the rim,” Gasol said of the Lakers. “I thought we did a great job of contesting shots and rebounding the ball. Great team effort, guys flying around, guys helping each other, communicating. So that’s great to see.”

Toronto didn’t show much rust at all on defence, which didn’t shock Gasol.

“I’m not surprised because I think the coaches do a great job of giving us a great gameplan A, B, C, D, E, so we have different gameplans for different moments. And we have a bunch of professional players that execute really well,” he said.

“And we trust it. We’ll live and die by it. Sometimes we’re gonna win, sometimes we might lose, but we stick with each other.”

Toronto has not lost since March 1 at Denver, bringing an odd five-game winning streak that was broken up by several months into Monday’s game.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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