Heat hold off Raptors for ninth straight win

Larry Millson, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

TORONTO -- The Miami Heat led by 20 points in the third quarter but needed some help from missed free throws by the Toronto Raptors to win for the ninth time in a row on Friday.
The Raptors, who cut the lead to two points with 4:40 to play in the game, made only two of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, most of them down the stretch.
As a result, the Heat went on to claim a 90-83 victory, led by forward LeBron James, who scored seven of his 27 points in the fourth quarter.
"Clearly, we were a different team once we were up 20 from what we were going down the stretch the last 10 or 12 minutes," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "That's something we constantly have to work at, stay on edge. Most of it is mental, most of it is with us, and that's the challenge."
Guard Dwyane Wade added 22 points for the Heat, with forward Michael Beasley and guard Ray Allen chipping in with seven each.
"The game came down to free throws and that's something you can control," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "The other thing you can control is defensive intensity in the first half. You can't let the other team shoot 57 percent, even though they're the world champions."
It was the 13th consecutive win for the Heat over the Raptors, who have not won against Miami since Jan. 27, 2010.
Guard DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 25 points and forward Rudy Gay had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost two in a row. Guard Kyle Lowry added 15 points and forward Tyler Hansbrough had eight points and 12 rebounds for Toronto but was 2-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
"Free throws were big; we've all got to do better, including myself," Hansbrough said. "We felt in the second half that we played pretty well. We showed we can play with them. We just have to put a complete game together."
The Heat (13-3) led by 20 points during the third quarter but by eight entering the fourth. The Raptors (6-9) cut the lead to five on a 3-pointer by Lowry with 8:03 to play. After James missed a 3-point attempt, the Raptors came back to cut the lead to four on DeRozan's short jumper with 5:24 to play.
After DeRozan missed two free throws, Gay put in the rebound to cut the lead to two. But James hit a 3-pointer to take the lead back to five. When Heat forward-center Chris Bosh fouled out with 1:37 to play, Gay missed both free throws.
The Heat took a seven-point lead on James' layup. Hansbrough made one of two free throws to cut the lead to five points in the last minute. James made two free throws with 19.8 seconds left to increase the lead to seven.
James took some tape off his fingers after the game and he also said his back bothered him a bit.
"I got it jammed early in the game," James said. "I got pretty banged up today. It bothered me through the game. They got some turnovers and that helped get them back in the game."
The Heat had 19 turnovers in the game, including 11 in the second half.
"We were able to come down and execute our offense," Wade said. "Even though we didn't make all our shots, we had the shots that we wanted. They've got good individual players, guys who can go one-on-one. They put a lot of pressure on you from that standpoint."
Casey said, "The way we played in the second half, we showed we can play with anybody. But there's two halves."
The Heat took a 14-point lead into the third quarter and Wade quickly took the lead to 18 to take advantage of DeRozan's missed shot and a turnover by Lowry.
The Heat led by 20 points when James hit a 3-pointer after the Raptors' fifth turnover of the third quarter with 8:25 to play. The Raptors trimmed the lead to 78-70 after Hansbrough made two free throws to end the third quarter.
NOTES: Raptors F Quincy Acy (sprained right ankle) returned to the lineup after missing the previous three games. F Austin Daye and C Aaron Gray were the Raptors' inactive players. ... Former Raptors F Chris Bosh made his only appearance of the regular season at Air Canada Centre. Bosh remained home for Miami's previous visit to Toronto on Nov. 5, a 104-95 Heat win, after his wife gave birth to the couple's second child. ... G Roger Mason Jr. and C Greg Oden were inactive for the Heat. ... The teams have two meetings left this season, both in Miami -- Jan. 5 and March 31. ... The Heat will return home to play the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday and the Raptors host the Denver Nuggets on Sunday.

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