Heat vs. Raptors (8pm ET Friday, ESPN)
The Heat have lost six of seven, including a 106-87 defeat at the hands of the Washington Wizards, dropping their record to 23-20 and their standing in the East down to 7th. To be fair, the Heat went into the game minus their starting backcourt, as Goran Dragic battles a calf strain and Dwyane Wade is contending with a sore shoulder. Oh, and center Hassan Whiteside logged only 11 minutes before falling to the floor with a strained oblique.
“I can find something on iTunes or something, a nice little medley going right now in A minor. That’s sad right?” Chris Bosh joked after the game. For tonight’s game Wade, Whiteside and Luol Deng (eye injury) are all questionable, and Dragic remains out.
The Toronto Raptors, in sharp contrast, have won six in a row, including a 115-109 victory Wednesday over the Boston Celtics in which DeMar DeRozan went of for 34 points, hitting 8 of 9 3-pointers. DeRozan is now tied for 10th in the league at 23.1 points per game, to go along with 4.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists, as his play this season has made him one of 30 finalists for Team USA.
Pacers vs. Warriors (10:30pm ET Friday, ESPN)
The Pacers narrowly defeated the hapless Suns 97-94 on Tuesday to snap a three-game slide. Indiana had been up 13 with 3:31 to play, and barely survived a late push by Phoenix to bring their record to 23-19, good enough for 5th in the East. The Pacers are shorthanded these days, as point guard George Hill has missed the last two games to deal with a personal matter and remains unavailable, while Rodney Stuckey is out with a bone bruise in his right foot and Ian Mahinmi is questionable with a left ankle sprain – that’s 84 minutes, 31 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists a game Indy needs to replace. Newly minted All-Star starter Paul George’s 24-7-4 makes him one of the league’s best, but he’s just one man – dude could use a little help.
Two days after leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers in a ditch by the side of the highway, the Warriors did much the same to the Chicago Bulls, beating them in a 125-94, as Golden State outshot their opponent 52.6% to 37%. Normally when you see a team score 125, it’s cuz someone went a little crazy, but not the Warriors: Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both fell short of their season averages and no one else scored 20. The Warriors’ mastery in this game was most notable in their 38-to-10 assist-to-turnover ratio – to understand how crazy that is, consider that Mike Conley is leading the league in that category at 3.9. Yikes. The Warriors are now 39-4, and are on pace to win 74 games, which would break the record set by the ‘95-’96 Jordan-Pippen-Rodman Chicago Bulls. Not too shabby.