Faux Canadian pride aside, Raptors favorites versus Heat

Toronto Raptors (-200) are the basketball betting favorites against the Miami Heat (+170)The Toronto Raptors (-200) are basketball betting favorites against the Miami Heat (+170). Unlike the rest of the teams in the NBA playoffs, the Raptors have not just one city, but an entire country pulling for them – theoretically speaking. Canadian sports fans sustained quite a blow this year as not one Canadian hockey team made the NHL playoffs.

 Ironically – but not really – the NBA’s lone Canadian team not only made the post-season but qualified to the second round for the first time in 15 years, prompting GM Masai Ujiri to exclaim “where that’s {expletive deleted} monkey now?”
Also ironic – though not quite –, NHL teams from Canada have more than one player who actually hail from Canada. As The Guardian’s Joseph Kloke asks, will the Toronto Raptors be able to restore Canada’s national pride? Well, isn’t that a little too much to ask of the team’s single, solitary Canadian player Cory Joseph? And it also begs the question, will Toronto’s continued success help restore Brazil’s, Argentina’s, Congo’s, Lithuania’s, and Texas’s national pride (poor Texas’ only representative left are the San Antonio Spurs, the only team rooted against by their own fans). It will be difficult for the Raptors to steal the hearts of the average Canadian sports fan – except those betting on NBA – you know, what with two thirds of their roster actually being American.
And speaking of American, that where Toronto’s opponents are billed from. Much like the Raptors, the Miami Heat came this close to being eliminated, especially after losing three games in a row to first round opponents the New Orleans Hornets. Apparently, they kicked the proverbial hornet’s nest by winning the first two games – and then again by winning the last two. The point is that both teams went through physically and emotionally exhausting series, with the consequent experience boost but also the accompanying stress. In other words, it has the potential of being a double-edged sword. 
As a matter of fact, the draining first round series may have already taken a toll on both teams while at the same time leaving little to no time to recover. Kyle Lowry seems to be playing through an injury, while DeMar DeRozan had trouble finding consistency in the first round. In Miami’s camp, Dwayne Wade can still be a game changer, but the Heat might miss Chris Bosh, who is recovering from blood clots. If Toronto give more minutes to supporting players such as Dwayne Casey, Jonas Valanciunas, Norman Powell, Bismack Biyombo, and the aforementioned Joseph, and feed off their home crowd energy, the Raptors have a pretty good chance of living up to expectations as basketball betting favorites and bag Game 1.