In a battle of division leaders, the Heat travel to Toronto to take on the Raptors. Yup, the Raptors lead the Atlantic Division with a record of 6-8.
1. Can Miami keep streaking until the Indy game (Dec. 10)?
Israel Gutierrez: Sure, why not? It'll only add to the narrative of that budding rivalry between the two best teams in the East. It won't be easy, though. That Pacers game will be the last of a four-game road trip for Miami, so getting there on a win streak would first mean victories at Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit.
Michael Wallace: No. Playing with that level of consistency and energy for six more games, with four of them on the road, is a bit much to ask. Heat streaks tend to die in Chicago, which looms next week. And if not there, two nights later in Minnesota could be dangerous.
Brian Windhorst: They have a great chance. They will be the heavy favorite in each game, and there's only one back-to-back, next week in Detroit, where there's a good chance Wade will sit. Of course, there's a game in Chicago in that stretch, and the Bulls are always a challenge. They're probably privately hoping they get a chance to end another Heat streak.
2. What are the chances Haslem's rotation removal is permanent?
Gutierrez: Very low. It's unlikely Shane Battier will go the rest of the way at power forward without wearing down at some point. If that happens, Erik Spoelstra will likely turn back to Haslem as a starter. But it has become clear that if he's not starting, Haslem's not playing.
Wallace: Slim. Coach Erik Spoelstra's rotation is known to go away from folks for extended periods, but they always seem to come back around at some point via injury or the ineffective play of someone else. That said, it will be difficult to overtake a healthy Shane Battier, a productive Michael Beasley or a consistent Rashard Lewis at this point.
Windhorst: Nothing at the back of the rotation is permanent. The Heat have a deep team, and they use it. The rotation will continue to change all season.
3. Can the Raptors actually win the Atlantic Division?
Gutierrez: No, the Raptors won't win this division, regardless of what's going on in New York and Brooklyn right now. The funny part is, if this talent (DeMar Derozan, Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas) were on another one of these Atlantic teams, we would have pretty high expectations for them. But there's something about Toronto over the past several years that brings down expectations.
Wallace: It's possible, but I seriously doubt it. There's still faith to some degree that the Knicks will right the ship when Tyson Chandler returns from injury. And there's still plenty of time for the Nets to stop making a mess of themselves. It's way too soon to rely on the Raptors to get this done. Still, a .500 record may be all that's required to do it at the pace.
Windhorst: Probably not. The Raptors are the only team in the division that are performing at the level that most expected. Everything else has been a surprise. You would think the Nets talent would give them traction when they get healthy, especially since the Raps aren't putting much space between them.