Heat Check: Miami tops Toronto to grab edge in Eastern Conference race
MIAMI — Giddiness was nowhere to be found in the Miami Heat locker-room Monday night after the two-time defending NBA champions grabbed control of their own destiny in the fight for the Eastern Conference top seed.
"It doesn’t feel like anything. The standings are what they are," said LeBron James, who scored 32 points to lead the Heat to a 93-83 victory against the Toronto Raptors at AmericanAirlines Arena.
The win meant the Heat (51-22) moved percentage points ahead of Indiana (52-23) for the conference top seed and home-court advantage in the playoffs. The Pacers were beaten at home 103-77 by San Antonio.
"We want to play the best we can and the fact we are in first is pretty cool, but we have so much work to do," James said. "We have guys that need to get healthy. So we haven’t even talked about (the top seed). We probably won’t talk about it."
Miami has two games at hand on Indiana, who will visit the Heat on April 11. The Pacers won two of the previous three meetings this season.
The Heat have nine games remaining overall, six at home. Indiana has seven games left, three at home.
"Guys will look at the standings. I will look at the standings. We’re aware of it," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It’s not that we’re naive to it. I didn’t talk about it.
"These were pros getting ready for battle and it was that type of focus. That’s the type of thing we’re trying to stress right now, the process of building habits. The results will hopefully follow."
Chris Bosh, who scored 18 points, admitted to giving a small, hip-level fist pump upon seeing that Indiana had lost. Still, the big man said the there was little time to celebrate at the moment.
"What’s most important overall is making sure we take care of the next game," Bosh said. "If we do that, we’re in the driver’s seat. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing."
Dwyane Wade (hamstring) and Greg Oden (back) missed their third straight game, while Ray Allen (flu) missed his fourth in a row.
Point guard Mario Chalmers, who had missed the previous two games with a thigh injury, scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting — 3 of 5 from long distance — in his return to the lineup.
Chris Andersen had 13 points and seven rebounds in 25:12 off the bench to help Miami notch its 15 consecutive win against Toronto..
A 3-pointer by Greivis Vasquez pulled the Raptors (42-32) within 85-81 with 2:49 to go. Toney Douglas then git a trey and James had a three-point play to virtually secure the triumph.
Miami led 54-51 at halftime thanks largely to James (21 points, four rebounds and six assists). The King admitted to tweaking his back "a little" at the end of the first quarter.
James Jones had eight points and Andersen six off the bench in the first half.
THE TURNING POINT
After Toronto pulled to within 81-78 with 6:13 on the clock, baskets by Andersen and Bosh built a seven-point Miami advantage with 4:07 to go. Toronto never got closet than four after that.
THE DIFFERENCE MAKER
James. He really stepped up by scoring 11 points in the second quarter to ignite the Heat charge. He also finished with 7 rebounds and 8 assists.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Heat shot 51.5 percent (34 of 66) from the floor.
The Heat will play the Milwaukee Bucks in the second of five straight home games on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.