Monday, March 31, 2014
3-on-3: Miami Heat vs. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors, one of the biggest surprises in the league with a record of 42-31, are in Miami to take on the Heat (50-22). Our 3-on-3 crew weighs in.
1. Fact or Fiction: Miami will overtake Indiana for the East's No.1 seed.
Tom Haberstroh: Fiction. Indiana can't score, but they'll hold onto that No. 1 seed as long as teams can't score against them either. They're still the NBA's top defense since Jan. 1 and a top-five defense this month. The Heat will rest their stars down the stretch so the No. 1 seed will be tough to grab.
Michael Wallace: Fact. It's become disturbingly apparent that the Pacers just can't handle any bit of prosperity when it comes to securing the top seed in the East. This is something Indiana should have essentially locked up after last Wednesday's win against the Heat. With a home-friendly stretch to close out the season, including an April 11 date with the Pacers, the question now is how badly do the Heat want to push for this prize?
Brian Windhorst: Fact. I truly thought last week the Pacers had virtually clinched it, taking essentially a three-game lead with 10 to go. But they have lost all of their mojo and the benefits of that victory are already gone. They have the much tougher schedule the rest of the way and they've blown their cushion.
2. Fact or Fiction: Toronto is the biggest surprise team in the East.
Haberstroh: Fact. If we're talking positive surprises and not negative ones (hello Knicks!), then I'll go with the Raptors. Since trading Rudy Gay in early December, Toronto has been a half-game behind the Heat for the best record in the East over that span. Yes, better than Indiana. Surprise, surprise.
Wallace: Fiction. Having uncluttered their roster to create room to operate for some younger developing players, the Raptors have been one of the best stories of the NBA season. And I give their new front office plenty of credit for pushing for a strong season instead of selling off all assets to tank for the lottery. That said, the biggest stunner is how flat traditional pillars such as the Knicks and Celtics have fallen in the same year.
Windhorst: Fact. The Raptors were getting ready to fire Dwane Casey in December and they salary dumped their highest-paid player. Now, their playoff drought is over and they're going to have home court in the first round -- remarkable turnaround.
3. Fact or Fiction: Miami should no longer consider starting Greg Oden.
Haberstroh: Fiction. I don't see why not. The Roy Hibbert experiment did not go well, but I actually think Hibbert hit some really tough shots. They need every opportunity to see what they have in Oden and there's still plenty of time to do that in the regular season. But they should keep an eye on his workload.
Wallace: Fiction. If the Heat completely punt on Oden right now after a poor outing against Roy Hibbert last week, then there was never much hope from the start that he could be a valuable piece in the middle. It seems wrong to evaluate the entire Oden experiment off one six-minute stint against Indiana. Back spasms have kept Oden out of the past two games. But if he is going to be any sort of factor for Miami, he needs to get back on the court ASAP and string together two or three promising performances to build himself up for another shot at Hibbert and the Pacers on April 11.
Windhorst: Fact. Udonis Haslem has the spot, as he has for the past two titles. Oden has been an defensive problem spot. But it's unwise to think he's done. The playoffs are long, many things can happen. Both he and Michael Beasley will get a chance for a moment in the sun.