Reserves shine as Heat crush Raptors
The Miami Heat didn't need any of their Big Three to finish the regular season with a win.
Eddie House scored a career-high 35 points, Juwan Howard added 18 and the Heat beat the Toronto Raptors 97-79 on Wednesday night.
''That was one of the more enjoyable wins of the season,'' Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. ''It speaks to the professionalism of the guys that stayed ready and got an important win for us.''
With the Heat assured of the second seed in the East, Spoelstra rested LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Heat also were without forward Mike Miller, who sat out the second half Sunday against Boston because of a sore left thumb and injured his left ankle Monday night against Atlanta.
Spoelstra said he sympathized with the sellout crowd who chanted for James and Bosh, who were both in uniform, to see some action, calling it ''a difficult decision'' to sit his stars.
''They legitimately are nicked up right now,'' he said. ''We have to look at the big picture. That's the bottom line. It is a tough decision but at the end of the year you have to think about what's most important for the next step.''
Miami will host Philadelphia in its postseason opener Saturday.
''They've gotten better every single month,'' Spoelstra said about the 76ers. ''That's the test of a well-coached team and also a team of players who are together. Every month they've improved defensively. They're one of the better defensive teams in the league now and offensively they're efficient.''
House's previous career best was 31 against Utah on Nov. 18, 2005. The veteran guard, who hadn't played in Miami's previous five games, finished 7 of 13 from 3-point range.
''It was good to get out there and play, just to play again and have a rhythm,'' House said. ''There are nights you can't do that. It felt good to be out there.''
James Jones scored 12 points and Jamaal Magloire had a season-high 19 rebounds for the Heat, who have won four straight and 15 of 18 heading into the playoffs.
''They've got the workhorses, they've got role players and they've got the superstars,'' said Toronto's James Johnson, who scored 12 points. ''If they can put that all together, it's going to be a fun playoffs to watch.''
Jerryd Bayless scored 21 points and DeMar DeRozan had 18 for the Raptors, who lost five of their final six games and missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
''I don't think anybody is happy with our record, but at the same time there were some positives this year,'' Raptors coach Jay Triano said. ''The development of our young players was a plus.''
Ahead by one after three quarters, Miami opened the fourth on a 7-0 run thanks to four free throws from Howard and a corner 3-pointer by House. DeRozan stopped the run with a jumper but Mario Chalmers answered with a jump shot and House made back-to-back 3s, giving the Heat an 85-71 lead with 6:19 left.
For the second straight game, the Raptors had just eight healthy players. Toronto was without Leandro Barbosa (right pinky), Andrea Bargnani (right ankle), Jose Calderon (left hamstring), Reggie Evans (left index finger) Amir Johnson (left ankle) and Sonny Weems (right knee).
House scored 18 points in the first, hitting eight of nine shots, and Miami closed the quarter on a 14-3 run to lead 29-20.
House even banked in his second shot of the night, a two-point jumper.
''The one he banked in, he told me, 'It felt good. That was on line,''' Miami's Mike Bibby said. ''After that, he only stopped himself.''
House didn't score in the second, while Bayless had nine as Toronto erased the deficit. Julian Wright's hook shot with 12 seconds left in the half gave the Raptors a 51-50 lead at the intermission.
A 3-pointer by House with 33 seconds left in the third gave Miami a 70-69 lead heading into the final quarter.
Notes: Chalmers matched his career high with 13 assists. ... Magloire's career high in rebounds is 22, set against Charlotte on Jan. 21, 2006. ... The Heat finished 13 for 26 from beyond the arc. ... Toronto's Barbosa will visit a hand specialist in New York City on Thursday. He missed the final six games of the season. ... DeRozan was the only Toronto player to start in all 82 games. ... Former Blue Jays infielder Roberto Alomar watched from a baseline seat.