Even though the Raptors were playing without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it was going to require a great effort for his team to win at the Air Canada Centre.
He got it from his shorthanded squad – and it was just enough to beat the team with the best home record in the league.
Wayne Ellington’s layup with 0.3 seconds to go propelled the Heat to a thrilling 90-89 victory on a night Miami lost another starter to injury in Tyler Johnson and then another key rotation player in James Johnson, who was ejected with 7:50 to go in the third quarter after he and Raptors forward Serge Ibaka came to blows.
The victory propelled Miami (23-17) into fourth place in the Eastern Conference along with Washington (23-17). Toronto came in 14-1 at home and with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference at 28-10.
Ellington finished with 15 points. Goran Dragic led the Heat with 24 points, a career-high 12 rebounds and four assists and ejected shoves and a few words with Raptors All-Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan after he took and barely missed a long three-point heave as time expired.
Heat first round pick Bam Adebayo came off the bench and had 16 points, 15 rebounds and career-high five blocks and played a huge role down the stretch. Heat center Hassan Whiteside had 13 points and 15 rebounds.
Miami outrebounded Toronto 64-37. The Heat also blocked a season-high 14 shots in the win.
The Heat, which missed its first seven shots of the game, led the Raptors 51-41 at the half despite shooting only 38.2 percent from the field. Miami finished with 58 points in the paint.
Derrick Jones Jr., signed to a two-way contract by the Heat on Dec. 31, made his first start for Miami in place of Tyler Johnson, who strained his left shoulder going through drills at shootaround earlier in the day. Jones had eight points inclduing a pair of nice putback dunks in 28 minutes.