MIAMI â€” Down by 15 early, the Toronto Raptors had no reason to panic.
Trouble brings out their best.
DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points â€” doing that back-to-back for the first time in his career â€” and the Raptors clamped down defensively in the final three quarters to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 on Thursday night.
Toronto has now won 19 games this season after trailing by at least 10 points, more than any team in the NBA.
“It talks about toughness, heart,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “Our give-a-crap level is pretty high, and it’s one of those things where when you count us out, we find a way. My thing is just find five men who are going to play hard.”
Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand and some padding and bandages to protect the injury, Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Miami. Whiteside seemed a bit limited â€” his first two shots were rather gentle dunks, not his usual make-the-backboard-shake variety.
His injury situation even got worse: Whiteside sprained his left ankle late in the game.
“Very inspiring, just to see him out there battling,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Even with one good hand at the start and one good ankle at the finish, Whiteside was one of Miami’s lone offensive bright spots. Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each scored 13 for Miami, which shot 39 per cent and tied its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
“No one’s going to feel sorry for me,” said Whiteside, who had a bag over his cut hand, two icepacks on his knees and a wrap on his newly injured ankle as he sat at his locker postgame.
DeRozan needed 38 shots to score 42 points against Chicago on Tuesday. He was much more effective in this one, shooting 14 for 25 from the field and 12 for 13 from the line.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and try to pick it up on the defensive end as well, not just trying to go up there scoring,” DeRozan said. “We slowly started getting into it and started playing like we wanted to play.”
Neither team moved in the Eastern Conference playoff standings. Toronto (43-29) remained in the No. 4 spot, pulling within a half-game of No. 3 Washington. Miami (35-37) stayed No. 8, now just a game ahead of No. 9 Chicago and No. 10 Detroit.
Raptors: Toronto has won four straight. … DeRozan has two 20-plus-point halves against Miami this season. He had 22 in the second half on Nov. 4, and 24 in the first half of this one. … P.J. Tucker started for Serge Ibaka, who served his one-game suspension for fighting Chicago’s Robin Lopez on Tuesday. … Toronto outrebounded Miami 51-36.
Heat: Wayne Ellington played, one day after the birth of his son. Wayne Ellington III arrived Monday afternoon. … Miami’s three second-quarter field goals were a season-low for any quarter. The previous low was four, done four times. … McGruder reached double figures for only the second time in his last 14 games.
DeRozan became the second player in Toronto history to have a season where he scored 32 or more points at least 20 times. He was an 11-year-old when it last happened â€” Vince Carter had 28 of those games in 2000-01. It was also DeRozan’s sixth 40-point game this season, extending his Toronto single-season mark.
Heat guard Dion Waiters missed his third game with a sprained left ankle, and remains in a walking boot. There’s still no timetable for his return, but the Heat said the swelling in his ankle continues to decrease.
Raptors: Visit Dallas on Saturday. It’s the second time this month Toronto faces Miami and Dallas consecutively.
Heat: Visit Boston on Sunday. Miami is 0-3 against Boston this season, losing by eight, 10 and three points.
Tim Reynolds, The Associated Press