Two teams fighting in the Eastern Conference playoff race will meet tonight in Toronto as the Raptors will play host to the Miami Heat. Toronto will be looking for their third straight win, and we’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting a first-half spread bet in this one.
Despite being 6-4 over their last ten games and currently sitting in 7th place in the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat rank 20th in the league in that span in NET rating at (-1.8). Defense has been the primary area that is keeping their NET rating in the negatives, as their defensive efficiency rating over the past ten games is the 3rd worst in the league and a big reason why they will enter tonight off a loss.
In their most recent game against the Brooklyn Nets, the Heat allowed 129 points on 49% shooting from the field. That loss marked the seventh time in the last ten games that Miami has allowed over 115 points and the fourth time they’ve allowed 120 or more points. In that ten-game span, the Heat are allowing 18.8 points off turnovers per game and also allowing the third most threes per game in the league at 14.4 per game.
If it weren’t for Miami being ranked 7th in offensive efficiency rating over the past ten games, we would likely be seeing a lot more movement in the standings. The Heat have the best true shooting percentage in the NBA in that span at 62.8%, but they will be challenged tonight on that end of the floor against a Raptors team that is 9th in defensive efficiency in the same ten-game stretch.
Toronto is 5-5 over their last ten games, but they have shown a much more balanced approach on both ends of the floor, which is why they are ranked 9th in NET rating in that span. The Raptors' ability to get the job done on both ends of the floor has been on display recently, as they have won their last two games by an average margin of 15.5 points.
Toronto is currently listed as a (-3.5) point favorite, but for my play in this one, I’ll be targeting their first-half spread of (-2). The Raptors are 40-35 ATS this season in the 1H, while Miami is 31-43-1 ATS in the 1H, giving them an ROI of -19.93%. Additionally, Miami is 3-7 ATS in the first half over their last ten road games.
The differential in NET rating between the two teams in the first half is large, much like it is for full games over the past ten. Over that ten-game stretch, the Raptors' 1H NET rating is 11.1, which is the 5th best in the league, Miami on the other hand 22nd with a -5 rating. Toronto is top five in multiple 1H statistical categories in that same span, including assist/turnover ratio, rebounding percentage, and turnover percentage.
I mentioned earlier that the Heat’s offense has been keeping them afloat, but their defense is truly testing that ability, especially early in games. The Heat defense is 25th in opponent first-half field goal percentage, 21st in average three-pointers allowed, and 20th in average 1H points allowed. I expect a close game, but I think the Raptors hold a clear advantage in the first half, and the number available is more than ideal.
Toronto Raptors 1H (-2)