Two interesting events occurred in the Miami Heat’s 100-85 win over the Toronto Raptors.
Event one: Erik Spoelstra and his coaching staff are going to the All-Star game for the first time in the Big Three era, securing a narrow lead over the New York Knicks for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Event two: The Heat got the ball to Chris Bosh in the fourth quarter. A lot. In fact, he had 12 points in a tight quarter that was ultimately decided by his three-pointer with 2:42 remaining that stretched a four-point lead to seven. From the 7:05 mark to the 2:20 mark, Bosh scored ten of the Heat’s 12 points in the most critical span of the game–one that featured LeBron James on the bench.
LeBron and Chris combined for 22 of the Heat’s 29 fourth quarter points, with surprisingly none coming from Dwyane Wade.
They didn’t need him for the final frame. Bosh scored 12 of his 28 points (12-of-19 shooting) in the final frame, while also providing five rebounds and a block in 33 minutes. LeBron somehow ended up with a game-high 30 points on only 16 shots to accompany eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals. I say ‘somehow’ because it appeared LeBron’s head was more focused on other matters outside of the court.
Yet he ended up with another well-rounded offensive performance and as good a defensive job he could have had on Rudy Gay. Although Gay needed only 23 shots for 29 points, 20 of those points came in the first half. LeBron, as well as the rest of the Heat team, stepped up the defensive pressure in the second half allowing only 38 points after giving up 50 in the first half.
Toronto ended up shooting a mere 37 percent from the field and only got 32 of their 85 points inside the paint. Miami forced 15 turnovers and did an excellent job keeping penetration to a minimum, including forcing starting point guard Kyle Lowry into five turnovers and only three assists. DeMar DeRozan and Alan Anderson coughed up the ball three times apiece.
Miami also kept Toronto’s bench to a minimum, allowing only 11 points on 4-of-18 shooting between four different Raptors.
The Heat’s bench wasn’t much better with Ray Allen struggling on the road again, but they received five points from Norris Cole in the fourth quarter and some solid defense from Shane Battier who had five points, five rebounds and two blocks in 33 minutes. Chris Andersen racked up four fouls in 11 minutes, but was active on the glass with four boards–three coming off the offensive glass.
It seemed as if the Heat were going to run away with it early as they built up a 16-6 lead halfway through the first. Like many of the past games, however, Miami saw their lineup to start the second quarter provide little on both ends of the floor. Before long, that 10-point lead had turned into a seven-point deficit five minutes into the second quarter. It wasn’t until Dwyane Wade was back on the floor when the Heat entered something along the lines of a rhythm.
It may be now clear to Spoelstra that the Cole-Allen-Battier-Lewis-Bosh lineup isn’t worth running. The Heat dug themselves into a hole with that lineup and faced a 50-44 halftime deficit, facing an eight-point deficit twice in the final four minutes of the half. Ron Rothstein delivered one of the more jarring halftime interviews this year, asking his team if they enjoyed constantly getting their butt kicked at the physical aspect of the game.
It must have worked. The half started off with a Wade block on a DeRozan jumper and the Raptors didn’t convert their first field-goal of the second half until an Aaron Gray tip-in with 5:40 remaining. Toronto only had four free throws to rely on for offense until that point. They mustered only 17 third quarter points after dropping in 29 in the second.
Miami kept the clamps on Toronto in the fourth, as well. The Raptors went without a field-goal from the 10:41 mark to the 6:44 mark. The Heat felt their breathing room closing after DeRozan’s dunk closed the deficit with three with 4:20 remaining, but a 14-2 run would close out the game for Miami.
The Raptors had one field-goal in the final four minutes. Miami had five in the same span.
Dwyane Wade didn’t score in the fourth, but he was an excellent facilitator when it came to getting the ball to Bosh in the fourth. They worked an excellent two-man game and continued to beat up on their opponents with Bosh coming off the pick-and-roll, keeping the Heat’s head above water while LeBron rested. Wade needed only 32 minutes to record 23 points, five rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block.
No rest for the Heat. They travel back home to take on a bad Charlotte Bobcats team. The next five Heat games take place at the American Airlines Arena, but none could be considered a sure win as Houston, the Clippers, Lakers and Trail Blazers stop in.