Miami Heat forward LeBron James, right, falls to the floor after trying to dunk over Toronto Raptors center Aaron Gray, left, during first half NBA action in Toronto on Sunday Feb. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS,Frank Gunn)
Sunday, February 03, 2013 6:10 pm
Heat win to put Spoelstra on East All-Star's bench
By IAN HARRISONAssociated Press
LeBron James scored 30 points, Chris Bosh had 28 against his former team and the Miami Heat beat Toronto 100-85 Sunday for their 10th straight victory over the Raptors.
The victory guarantees Miami the top spot in the Eastern Conference as of Feb. 3, percentage points ahead of the New York Knicks. That means Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and his staff will be in charge when the All-Stars suit up in Houston in two weeks.
"It's awesome," James said. "It's a testament to our coaches' preparedness. As players we go out there and just try to execute their game plan. We're happy for them."
Spoelstra, the fifth-year coach who led the Heat to the NBA championship last June, called the All-Star nod "a heck of an honor."
"We're happy to go, we're excited about it," Spoelstra said. "You don't spend any time thinking about it as it's happening, you're just trying to prepare your team and make sure you have the best record. Now that it happened, it's cool. We'll make the most of it. Our staff is thrilled about it. Our players gave us congratulations afterward. That's about as rare a thing as you'll ever get in this league."
Dwyane Wade added 23 points as the Heat bounced back after Friday's 102-89 loss at Indiana, ensuring their team Super Bowl viewing party would be a happy one.
"It's good to get this one to close out this road trip so we can enjoy this evening and enjoy the second game," Spoelstra said.
James had indicated his displeasure last Wednesday after realizing he would miss the Super Bowl while flying back to Florida after the game. The Heat's private plane is not equipped with satellite TV or wireless Internet.
To accommodate James, the Heat delayed their return home for Monday's game against Charlotte until after the Super Bowl, which they planned to watch at a bar adjoining the Air Canada Centre. Real Sports Bar and Grill is operated by Raptors team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
"You don't want to be thinking about ways you could have helped the team win while you're trying to watch the Super Bowl," James said. "We're happy we took care of it."
James and Wade were voted onto the starting lineup for the East, while Bosh was named a reserve last week.
With injured Boston guard Rajon Rondo set to miss out after tearing a knee ligament, Spoelstra was asked whether he'd consider putting Bosh into the starting lineup.
"I've only given this thought for the last nine minutes," Spoelstra said. "But I will tell you this unequivocally: My loyalties are first and foremost always with the Miami Heat."
Whether he starts or not, Bosh said he was happy to see Spoelstra and his staff earn the trip to Houston.
"They deserve it," Bosh said. "They work hard, just like us. To be able to have that honor and that privilege, it's a great thing."
Rudy Gay led the Raptors with 29 points and DeMar DeRozan had 27. Kyle Lowry scored 10 points and Aaron Gray matched his season high with 12 rebounds for the Raptors, who have lost four of five.
"They're the champs," DeRozan said. "We couldn't stop them. We couldn't slow them down when they got it going."
James finished with team highs of eight rebounds and seven assists and Bosh scored 13 in the fourth quarter for Miami, which improved to 12-11 on the road.
Booed throughout by the sellout Toronto crowd, Bosh said he used the jeers as motivation.
"I was hearing a lot from the fans," Bosh said. "I thank them for continuing to stay on me and call me names and stuff because that helped my focus a lot. I was like `I need to get in this to shut them up.'"
Terrence Ross and DeRozan sandwiched 3-pointers around a hook shot by Bosh, bringing Toronto to within three at 84-81 with 5:22 left. Miami's Norris Cole scored a layup but DeRozan answered with a driving dunk, and Miami called timeout up 86-83 with 4:09 left.
Bosh made one of two from the line after the stoppage, then followed with a 3 from the corner as the Heat took a 90-83 lead with 2:34 to go.
"Chris really gave us a presence in the paint," Spoelstra said. "He hit the big 3 but he was collapsing the defense with his rolls to the rim, catching it and going up strong in traffic. That makes us a different team when he gives us that presence."
James extended the lead by stealing the ball on Toronto's next possession and driving for a breakaway slam, then hitting a 3 to put the Heat up 95-83 with 1:28 left.
James scored nine points in the first, including an alley-oop dunk from Mario Chalmers and a breakaway slam off a Raptors turnover. DeRozan had 10 for Toronto but the Raptors trailed 24-21 after one quarter, the first time in nine games they hadn't led after 12 minutes.
Gay scored Toronto's first 10 points of the second to give the Raptors the lead. He finished with 16 in the quarter, putting Toronto up 50-44 at the half. Bosh scored nine points in the third and Wade added seven as the Heat took advantage of six Toronto turnovers to take a 71-67 lead into the fourth.
NOTES: Gay made his first Raptors start in place of Landry Fields (back spasms). ... Miami is 24-2 when scoring 100 points or more. ... This was the last of a four-game road trip for the Heat. Monday's game against the Bobcats is the first of five straight at home. They'll also face Houston, the Clippers, the Lakers and Portland. ... James and several Heat teammates attended Saturday night's NHL game between the Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. James tweeted a photo from his seat accompanied by the caption "At my first hockey game. Pretty Damn cool."