Raptors-Heat Preview

The Associated Press

Despite the constant uncertainty surrounding Dwyane Wade's health, LeBron James has helped the Miami Heat remain in contention for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat haven't had much trouble with the Toronto Raptors in recent seasons no matter who has been in the lineup, but if they want to earn an eighth straight victory in this series, they'll have to do it without Wade, Chris Bosh and Ronny Turiaf on Wednesday night in Miami.

Miami (43-17) pulled to within 2 1/2 games of first-place Chicago with a 101-98 come-from-behind victory over New Jersey on Monday, with James scoring his team's final 17 points.

Wade sat out for the fourth time in nine contests due to a nagging ankle injury, but the Heat improved to 12-1 without him this season. The star guard will be out again Wednesday, having been sidelined this season by a variety of injuries and more recently because of what the Heat are calling a ''maintenance'' program heading into postseason.

Bosh will sit out for the fourth time, while Turiaf has been dealing with a sore hamstring for about a week.

James' hoop with 51 seconds remaining Monday gave Miami its first lead and he finished with 37 points, hearing chants of "MVP!" from the visiting crowd.

"No. 6, he was pretty good going down the stretch," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He was sensational. Obviously, he made every big play offensively. That's what an MVP does and we needed it at both ends. But also on a night like this, you can come up with a lot of excuses to not bring that type of performance, but that's not the type of DNA he has inside of him."

The Heat face the Bulls on Thursday, but James is confident that Miami won't be looking ahead.

"We want to win every last game to close it out," he said. "We don't want to lose again the rest of the season. Ultimately we can to continue to get better."

James scored a career-high 56 points against Toronto on March 20, 2005, in a loss while playing for Cleveland. In two home games versus the Raptors since joining Miami, he's averaged 34.0 points and 10.0 rebounds.

He had 30 points in a 95-89 home win over the Raptors on Feb. 5 before scoring 26 with nine assists in a 113-101 victory in Toronto on March 30.

The Raptors haven't beaten the Heat since a 111-103 victory Jan. 27, 2010 - when Bosh had 24 points and 18 rebounds for Toronto.

Bosh scored 30 points last month against the Raptors, losers of five of seven after a 109-87 defeat to Atlanta on Monday.

Toronto (22-40) beat the Hawks 102-86 on Sunday despite being without four players, but couldn't sweep the home-and-home series while again playing without a good chunk of their lineup.

Andrea Bargnani has missed the last five contests and Jose Calderon has been out the last three. Calderon (swollen right eye) traveled to Miami and is day to day.

DeMar DeRozan has averaged 22.3 points over his last three games, one of which was an 84-79 victory over Boston on Friday.

"It just shows that we can play with anybody," DeRozan said of the two wins over playoff teams in the last three games. "Even if we're down a man or two, we've got the ability to play with anybody in this league."

DeRozan has averaged 25.0 points in his last five games versus Miami, scoring 28 in the most recent matchup.

The Heat have won five straight and 10 of 13 over the Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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