The Toronto Raptors were unable to take advantage of playing a team with nothing to play for their last time out, and missed out on a chance to take sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference. They can’t afford to do that again Monday when they host a team with even less direction.
The playoff-bound Raptors look to move closer to clinching the sixth seed in the East and sweep the season series over the Miami Heat for the first time in franchise history when they meet at the Air Canada Centre.
Toronto (40-40) is coming off Sunday’s 91-84 loss to Detroit, which has already clinched the East’s second seed and rested all of its starters over the final 11 minutes.
The loss dropped the Raptors into a tie with Philadelphia for the East’s sixth seed with two games left, although Toronto owns the tiebreaker. The sixth seed will play Orlando in the first round, while the seventh seed faces Detroit. The Raptors are 1-3 against the Pistons this season, and 1-2 against the Magic.
Toronto, which concludes the season Wednesday in Chicago, has been stumbling into the playoffs, dropping 16 of 24 games since Feb. 29.
“We’ve been struggling for a while now—that’s no secret—and tonight we had to go up against one of the best teams in the league,” Rasho Nesterovic said. “Whoever we play in the first round, we’re going to have to change our mentality if we want to have a chance.”
The Raptors will not be playing the woeful Heat (14-66) in the playoffs, but they can only wish they were.
Toronto has won the first three meetings of the season over Miami by an average of 33.0 points. In the only meeting at the Air Canada Centre on March 19, the Raptors won 96-54, holding the Heat to the third-lowest point total in the shot-clock era.
Toronto has never swept the season series over Miami in its 13-year history.
Chris Bosh finished with 30 points on Sunday, and is averaging 27.7 points on 58.5 percent shooting in his last three games. In two games against the Heat this season, Bosh has scored 32 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
Nesterovic had 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting against Detroit, and is averaging 18.0 points in six games this month—10.3 better than his season average. He is averaging 14.0 points on 14-of-21 shooting in his last two games versus the Heat.
Miami lost to Cleveland 84-76 on Sunday, dropping its 20th in its last 23 games.
The Heat led by two points after three quarters, but were outscored 27-17 over the final 12 minutes.
“We just went stone cold,” Miami coach Pat Riley said. “I thought we played extremely well, but not driving the ball really hurt in the fourth. We just kept taking jumper after jumper. We just couldn’t make enough shots. It’s the same old story.”
Ricky Davis scored a team-high 17 points against the Cavaliers, and is averaging 10.7 points versus the Raptors this season.
The Heat need to win their final two games to avoid matching the franchise’s worst single season record, set by the 1988-89 expansion team that went 15-67.
Miami concludes its terrible season Wednesday versus Atlanta.