LeBron James, Miami Heat fight off pesky Toronto Raptors

 

LeBron James scored 30 points and got 17 points off the bench from Michael Beasley as the Heat ended the Raptors’ win streak at five.

 

Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks past Toronto’s Terrence Ross in the fourth quarter between the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Miami Heat's LeBron James dunks past Toronto’s Terrence Ross in the fourth quarter between the Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat on Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014 at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami.
Pedro Portal / Staff photo

dneal@MiamiHerald.com

There’s a certain Silver Age comic book quality to watching the Heat much of the time, each game like an issue of adventure. There’s peril. Not all heroes can answer the roll call. Somehow, through some combination of smarts, gumption and superpowers, they usually engineer a thrilling triumph.

Sunday, once again, the Toronto threat streaked like Professor Zoom into AmericanAirlines Arena, much as Golden State did Thursday. Similar to Golden State Thursday and Atlanta two weeks ago, the Raptors assaulted the Heat with uncanny accuracy much of the night, even from a distance.

And then the Heat defensive powers waxed strong via LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Dwyane Wade found greater health again with a key jumper and two late rebounds. There’s Udonis Haslem with an important blocked shot. Heat win, 102-97 to end Toronto’s winning streak at five.

Next issue after day off: home against New Orleans, Tuesday.

“You just find a way to win,” James said. “We just continued to play our game.”

“We don’t change what we do,” James said. “We got some stops, we got some run-outs. We made some shots.”

The Heat held Toronto, which shot 58.9 percent from the field in the first three quarters, to 6 of 21 in the fourth quarter, 0 of 6 from three-point range and 13 points. DeMar DeRozan wound up with 26 points, and Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas had 17 points each.

“The first half, there were some stretches where we weren’t playing hard enough defensively and they were able to shake free for some open ones,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “In the third quarter, we were playing much more competitively and they were making them, which was tough. I liked that we stayed with it mentally.”

Toronto coach Dwane Casey said, “They turned up the pressure. They made us put it on the floor. They put us on the free throw line, but we didn’t convert (12 of 21). They started taking away passing lanes and started getting stops.”

Although Spoelstra said he avoids using words such as “switch” and “gear,” he admitted James defensive intensity “jump started us to another gear defensively” in the fourth quarter.

James also threw in 30 points on 12-of-18 shooting and distributed five assists with only one turnover. He didn’t attempt a single three-pointer and, until Toronto began fouling to stop the clock in the final minute, took only three free throws.

Wade, playing in only his second back-to-back of the season, said, “I feel like I usually do after games” and added he’s still at a day-to-day stage regarding practices and games. He recorded 14 points and nine rebounds Sunday night.

“My legs felt good tonight,” Wade said. “LeBron James had it going, so I was just trying to make plays. It wasn’t a big offensive night for me, but I was doing other things, rebounding the ball, trying to defend.”

A running hook by Bosh (11 rebounds) put the Heat up 86-84 with 8:56 left, its first lead since early in the third quarter. Toronto never led again.

Wade got the Heat’s final field goal, an off-balance 20-footer to push the lead to 94-91. With 16.4 seconds left, with the Heat up 100-97, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry got his layup slapped into the seats by Haslem, then missed a three-pointer after the inbounds play. James rebounded.

The Heat spent the second half without point guard Mario Chalmers after tendinitis in Chalmers right Achilles tendon flared up in the second quarter.

Chalmers said the tendon has been bothering him for a week, but Sunday he just couldn’t put any pressure on it. He hasn’t been ruled out for Tuesday yet.

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