Raps have to come out swinging against Heat

Toronto Raptors' Leandro Barbosa talks with teammate Jerryd Bayless as Bayless stands on the foul...

Toronto Raptors' Leandro Barbosa talks with teammate Jerryd Bayless as Bayless stands on the foul line against the Boston Celtics in the first half of their NBA basketball game at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts Feb 1, 2012. (REUTERS/Jessica Rinaldi)

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

Dwane Casey’s message is simple: If the Raptors are to have a chance against the mighty Miami Heat in South Beach on Sunday, the team must come out swinging.

The first-quarter lapses that have become a club staple, can’t happen. The non-existent early sense of urgency can’t reappear.

Not against the NBA’s only 20-point scoring trio. Not against LeBron James, who is in the midst of one of the top statistical seasons in league history, leading Miami to a 17-6 start to the season.

“We’ve got to go in with confidence, with swagger, we can’t go in on our heels. We’ve got to be the attacker,” Casey said after practice on Saturday at the ACC.

“We’ve got to go in believing we can compete and win the game and not go in the way I thought we did in Boston (a 36-point loss) and not have a ton of confidence.

“A veteran team is really going to try to knock you out in the first round and that’s why we’ve got to go in with that type of swagger to start the game and not wait until we get 10, 12 points behind to start the fight.”

Boxing analogies aside, while confidence will be a key, making sound plays with the basketball will be even more important. James and the Heat are all but unstoppable on the break and opponents who haven’t been cautious this season have been buried.

Luckily for the Raptors, Jose Calderon directs the offence and is one of the most patient point guards around.

His teammates also are aware how important it will be to prevent Miami from seeing the open floor.

“The number one thing we’ve got to control tomorrow is the turnovers,” said guard Leandro Barbosa. “They really got a very strong powered fast break and (there’s) nothing you can do about it for you to hold that.”

Casey said there is no secret why Miami is so good. Finding answers for James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh is extremely difficult.

“They have challenges all over the board,” Casey admitted. “If we try to go big, they have an advantage on the wings going one-on-one and if we go small, they have a post-up advantage.”

James Johnson likely will spend the bulk of his Sunday trying to slow down James.

Like his coach, Johnson said part of the assignment will come down to mental preparation.

Johnson said he has to head into the matchup ignoring all of the hype James’ play has created.

“Really the challenge is to block all that out and just treat (James and Wade) like a regular player like I do everybody else,” Johnson said.

But Johnson admits that’s easier said than done.

“LeBron, with his athleticism, he can do pretty much anything he wants. He gives people matchup nightmares.”

James has spent more time doing damage in the post this season than ever before, but Johnson doesn’t expect to see much of that on Sunday. Johnson said James was more likely to attack DeMar DeRozan or Jerryd Bayless if they get switched onto him owing to his size advantage.

Casey wants to see all of the Raptors be more aggressive in preventing opponents — James or otherwise — from setting up down low.

Instead of being backed down, Casey’s Raptors must refuse to back down.

If that happens, Sunday’s matchup won’t be the laugher most expect.

BATTLIN’ BARBOSA

The Raptors have struggled to score for much of the 2011-12 season, ranking 29th overall in points per game, but Leandro Barbosa can’t be blamed for the problems.

The Brazilian guard, who is in the final year of his contract, has been powering a potent bench.

In his past 10 appearances, Barbosa has averaged 14.2 points, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game on 45.8% shooting, 37% from long-range.

Though he has cooled from a 9-for-17 streak from three, Barbosa has been hot from everywhere else of late. Barbosa credits head coach Dwane Casey for his strong run.

“It’s all about, you get the groove. When you get the rhythm, everything happens,” Barbosa said. “I’m in that position right now and I’m very happy that coach has put me in a lot of situations to score the ball … Coach wants me to be aggressive.”

Barbosa battled through suspected food poisoning to lead Toronto with 19 points in a win over Washington on Friday and said he expects to be 100% against Miami.


Videos

Photos