LeBron James re-injured his lower back Friday against the Raptors in a basketball game neither team seemed to want to win.
James began the season with ongoing soreness in his lower back and tweaked it in the first half at Air Canada Centre on a drive to the lane against Raptors reserve Tyler Hansbrough, who is no stranger to creating contact against Heat players. James began the game 6 of 7 from the field and, despite the stiffness, led the Heat with 27 points in a 90-83 victory.
James said the back injury “was definitely a step backwards.”
“I got hit from behind, and Hansbrough got me pretty good, too,” James said.
He also jammed his fingers in the first half and played with some of his digits taped in the second half. After inconsistent shooting in the third quarter, James pulled the tape off in the fourth quarter. He finished 10 of 17 from the field, 3 of 5 from three-point range and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line to go along with four rebounds and three assists.
“It’s just a mind thing,” James said of the tape on his fingers. “I missed a couple shots, and I took it off. I got pretty banged up [Friday]. I’m glad we got a day off [Saturday] so I can try to get back to feeling good.”
Of the Heat’s nine consecutive victories, the second half against the Raptors was certainly the sloppiest. The Heat (13-3) scored just 33 points in the final two quarters but still won by seven points.
But as poorly as the Heat finished the game, the Raptors were worse.
In the second half, Toronto shot 39.4 percent from the field, 30.8 percent from the three-point line and an abysmal 47.6 percent (10 of 21) from the free-throw line.
The Raptors had a chance to claw their way back into the game in the fourth quarter, but went 2 of 10 from free-throw line in the period.
“They helped us out a lot,” James said.
Overall, the Raptors were 19 of 32 from the free-throw line and finished the game shooting 38.4 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from three-point range.
“The free throws were the name of the game down the stretch, and that’s something we can control,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “The other thing we can control is our defensive intensity in the first half.”
The Heat was like a different team in the first half, shooting 57.1 percent from the field.
“For us as a veteran ballclub it’s going to happen,” James said. “We would have loved to push that huge lead up in the fourth, but they got some good players, they got stops and we turned the ball over and they got back into the game. But we finished it out.”
James and Dwyane Wade were the only players for the Heat to score in double figures. Wade had 22 points, going 9 of 16 from the field and 4 of 5 from the free-throw line. He also had seven rebounds, six assists and five turnovers.
Chris Bosh fouled out with four points in his return to Air Canada Centre as the Heat won its 13th in a row over the Raptors and its seventh consecutive in Toronto. Miami has not lost to the Raptors since Jan. 27, 2010.
The Heat had 20 turnovers as a team and was called for 30 fouls.
“We became focused on a lot of the things we can’t control rather than the game,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “There are a lot of things we did well. Not only in the first half, but also in the first seven or eight minutes of the third quarter.
The Heat led by 20 points with 5:13 left in the third quarter but the allowed the Raptors back in the game with a 25-9 run.
Kyle Lowry made a three-pointer with 8:03 left in the game to cut the Heat’s lead to five points and a nine-foot fadeaway by DeMar DeRozan made it a four-point game with 5:23 to play.
A layup by Rudy Gay cut the Heat’s lead to 83-81 with 4:40 left but Raptors poor shooting at the free-throw prevented a comeback.
DeRozan led the Raptors with 25 points, going 10 of 20 from the field and Gay was 9 of 21 from the field for 21 points.
The Raptors had 21 turnovers to go along with their shooting.
“They took advantage of the things we did,” Gay said.