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Heat has enough energy to grind out win despite not getting into Toronto until 4 a.m.


This news story was published on March 31, 2012.
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By Joseph Goodman, McClatchy Newspapers –

TORONTO — The Heat had several potential excuses Friday for yet another subpar performance on the road.

And for three quarters, it seemed Miami could have used any of them to explain a closer-than-expected game against the Toronto Raptors. For starters, the team arrived in Toronto at 4 a.m. for the second half of a difficult back-to-back. Then there was the absence of Udonis Haslem, who didn’t make the trip because of personal reasons.

On top of that, Dwyane Wade was playing despite a major distraction.

Late Thursday night, he learned that his nephew in Chicago had been wounded in a gang-related shooting at a convenience store.

The Heat was tied with the Raptors after three quarters but pulled away in the fourth, defeating Toronto 113-101 at Air Canada Centre to earn its second victory in a row and snap a two-game skid on the road.

Wade and Chris Bosh, in his only visit to Toronto this season, scored 30 points apiece in the victory, and LeBron James added 26 points. Afterward, Wade’s focus was on his family.

“I grew up in Chicago, and that’s something I focus on when I go back to Chicago with my foundation — do what I can to help stop the violence,” Wade said. “To have one of your own family members, a nephew, be involved in it, it hurts.

“The biggest thing and the thing that you can thank God for is he’s healthy, but your prayers go out to all the families involved, and it’s tough.”

Wade was 12 of 19 from the field to go along with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and a block. As a team, the Heat (37-13) shot 57.1 percent.

Usually, those numbers indicate a blowout for the Heat.

But Friday, the scrappy Raptors were energized for the Heat’s only game in Toronto this season, and Air Canada Centre was filled with an excited crowd that pumped life into an otherwise underperforming team.

Resilient raptors

The Heat took an 18-4 lead early and led by eight points at halftime. But the Raptors eventually closed the gap. Toronto led 81-80 late in the third quarter, and the score was tied at 83 entering the final period.

“It’s the NBA,” Wade said.

“You’re not going to blow a team out, especially at home. They’re going to make a comeback. You’ve got to withstand it.”

But the Heat dominated the fourth quarter, showing a resiliency on the road that it has lacked since the All-Star break.

All six of the Heat’s losses since then have come on the road. Miami outscored Toronto 30-18 in the final period, playing without a turnover while holding the Raptors to 38.9 percent shooting. For the game, Toronto (17-35) shot 54.2 percent.

Rookie Norris Cole, who finished with six points, ended the third quarter with a three-pointer, and the Heat carried the momentum into the fourth.

Raptors reserve James Johnson tied the game with a three-pointer with nine minutes to play, but Miami outscored Toronto 16-7 over the next six minutes.

“We just came in with a lot of energy and a lot of effort,” James said.

“Toronto made a lot of shots and they kept getting closer, but we just continued to wear on them, and we were able to close out the game in the fourth.”

Late flurry

The Heat’s big fourth quarter came despite only two points in the period from James, who was 11 of 18 from the field and had nine assists and four rebounds. Bosh had 12 points in the fourth quarter, and Wade led the team in the final period with 13 points.

The game turned after a technical foul on Raptors guard Jose Calderon with 8:33 remaining.

The Heat outscored the Raptors 23-12 after that.

“Especially after the tough back-to-back, we liked the effort we played with most of the game,” Wade said.

A quick pass inside by James and a dunk by Bosh gave the Heat a 10-point lead with 3:39 to play.

Wade followed with a breakaway dunk 36 seconds later, and the Heat had its largest lead since early in the first quarter.

“Anytime I come here, I don’t want to disappoint myself,” said Bosh, who was 11 of 18 from the floor and had eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.

Looking for a spark of energy with Haslem away from the team, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra turned to little-used rookie Terrel Harris, who delivered with five points, a rebound and an assist in 13 minutes.

“Everybody just tells me to stay ready to play, and I’m just trying to do the best I can,” Harris said.

“When (the) time comes, I’ve just got to be ready for it.”

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