John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The game was tied at 77 all, but the Miami Heat turned it up a notch to come away with a blowout win.
With 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Rudy Gay made two free throws to tie the game at 77 all. The Miami Heat had built a 16-point second-quarter lead, but Toronto clawed back with an impressive close to the third quarter. And considering that LeBron James and Chris Bosh were resting and Norris Cole and Ray Allen were playing, perhaps the Raptors had a chance to continue with its momentum.
But the Heat scored seven quick points, including an amazing alley-oop from Cole to Dwyane Wade over multiple defenders from beyond half-court. Shane Battier even drove to the paint before finding Allen for a 3-pointer (how often does that happen?) On Miami's next possession, Battier found Chris Andersen for an and-one dunk. Suddenly, Miami had a nine-point lead.
But it didn't stop there, after James and Bosh re-entered the game.
While Toronto continued to come up empty, Miami began raining 3s. Allen made three triples in 88 seconds, and then Battier made one. With 4:39 left, the Heat held a 105-81 lead and took out its starters. Again, a reminder: the game was tied at 77. The final score was 108-91.
The Heat's utterly ridiculous run gave the team its 22nd straight win, tying the win streak from the 2007-08 Houston Rockets (a team with Battier) as the second-longest winning streak in NBA history. Although the Raptors grabbed 24 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded Miami 51-26, Toronto's 16 turnovers offset some of those second-chance points. The Heat also shot 58 percent from the field, so the Miami players didn't have many chances to collect offensive boards.
Wade finished with 24 points on 10-of-15 shooting from the field and nine assists. Aside from the alley from Cole, the NBA's best two-guard had several highlight-worthy plays, like when he went behind-his back before making a floater in the first quarter. Wade also had a few impressive mid-air body contortions for acrobatic layups. He's unquestionably more athletic than he was at the start of the season, when he was still recovering from his offseason surgery.
James finished with 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting, 12 rebounds and eight assists. The best player on the planet clearly wanted to get a triple-double, forcefully grabbing boards and finding open shooters in the fourth, but that's OK. He played in a way to give Miami the best chance to succeed. Gay did a pretty good job through three quarters -- he even stole the ball from James on a rebound before dunking -- but the Raptors' newest acquisition was hopeless during Miami's decisive run.
Bosh contributed 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field. Two of Bosh's shots came from beyond the arc in the corner. The former Raptor made four 3s in the last two games after only making 11 in the first 60 games of the season (hat-tip to Jay Ramos), reminiscent of his key 3s in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Allen finished with 20 points in 25 minutes, and Andersen positively impacted the game with three-of-three shooting. It's so good to see a backup center who can finish pick-and-roll plays.
The Heat will go for its 23rd straight win tomorrow in Boston at 8 p.m.