TORONTO — For three quarters, the Toronto Raptors stayed with the Miami Heat. For the final 12 minutes, the Heat reminded everyone why they are the defending champions.
LeBron James scored 30, Chris Bosh added 28 and Dwyane Wade tossed in 23, defeating the new-look Raptors 100-85 on Sunday. It’s pretty nice to have talent like that. The Raptors are learning that potent offensive players are a luxury that will help to win games.
“They’re the defending champs,” Raptors forward Rudy Gay said. “I say for three-and-a-half quarters we played them as well as anybody in the league. The fact that we haven’t been together for a long time, they exposed that in the fourth and a little bit in the third.”
While the final score and 15-point margin of victory for the Heat makes it appear otherwise, the Raptors put in a solid effort against Miami.
“No matter what, every time they play us … they play us tough,” Wade said.
Despite just one practice with his new team, Gay had another strong performance. Finishing with a team-high 29 points, Gay looked comfortable on both ends of the floor. He shifted between playing at his traditional small forward position and also moving to the four-spot when the team went small.
“As Rudy gets more comfortable and as they get more comfortable with him as a player … man,” Wade said. “Rudy is a very good player. He’s a guy who can get his shot off at any point. He does a good job of mixing it up inside outside and they’re getting even more athletic.
“This team right here is one of those teams that’s going to continue to get better, especially if they get their confidence going in the second half of the season. It’ll be tough for the next time we play them. We’ll have to come with our hard hats again.”
For the second straight game since the Raptors acquired Gay from the Grizzlies, the duo of Gay and DeMar DeRozan came up big for the Raptors. Against the Heat, the two combined to score 56 points. While DeRozan had a rough night from the floor, making just six of his 17 field goal attempts, he went to the free throw line 14 times, sinking every one of his attempts.
“It’s easy to play with these guys,” Gay said. “We have a great group of guys that all just want to win. I just want to come here and help them with that. I’m frustrated we didn’t get that [today].”
It is hard to evaluate the Raptors in a game against a team like the Heat with a new player that has had just one practice with his new teammates, but the addition of Gay into the mix has been a positive one thus far.
Wade praises Ross
It was reported earlier this week that Dwyane Wade, captain of the Eastern Conference All-Stars, said Raptors rookie Terrence Ross would be his number one choice for the dunk contest on All-Star weekend. While Ross has not been officially asked to participate yet, Wade reiterated after the game that his vote goes to Ross.
“You get a guy, I was watching one of the games Toronto was playing, he got a steal and did a windmill like it was nothing and I was like, ‘Ohhh.’ I’d love to see what he has … I would love to see Terrence Ross in,” Wade said. “It becomes what the NBA wants and what the fans want to see, but I’m a fan.”
Wade was told that Ross was excited when informed of his praise.
“I’ve been around for a long time. He watched me in high school. That’s all that means,” Wade said with a hearty laugh.
Bosh returns to boos
It’s been two seasons since Chris Bosh left for sunnier temperatures — and times — in South Beach. Despite the time that has passed, the Air Canada Centre crowd booed him loudly when he was introduced during starting lineups (Wade was cheered, if you were wondering), and throughout most of the first half, before finally losing interest after the halftime break.
“Yeah, I’m a little surprised,” Bosh said of the booing. “But they pay their money, they can do what they want. I hope they just remember the good times.”
Bosh had a strong fourth quarter for the Heat, helping them to pull away behind his 13 points in the period. While stoic throughout the game, his emotion was written all over his face after hitting a huge corner three to put the Heat up seven with under three minutes to go.
“It reminds me of who I play for and who I am now,” he said. “Today I was hearing a lot from the fans, I thanked them for continuing to stay on me and calling me names and stuff because that helped my focus a lot. I was like, ‘I need to get in this and shut ‘em up.’”
DeRozan receives rave reviews from Heat
This is a big season for DeMar DeRozan. After inking a four-year, $38-million extension with the Raptors, all eyes have been on the fourth-year swingman. While his own teammates are quick to point to his ever-improving court vision and awareness, the Heat also had kind words for DeRozan’s game.
“I think one thing about DeRozan which is great is that you have a player who is so talented like that, but he doesn’t really do things outside what the team wants,” Wade said. “He plays within what the team is doing and he makes a big impact on the game. Obviously he’s getting better. He’s a young guy with so much talent.
“I’ve seen that from when he was a rookie, the first time I played him. The sky is the limit for guys like that with so much talent. It’s all about confidence and opportunity for someone like him with all of that talent.”
Bosh, in Toronto during DeRozan’s rookie season, echoed Wade’s statements.
“Every team wants to have that All-Star calibre player and I think DeMar is very close,” he said. “He’s been working hard ever since Day 1 and he’s steadily improving and more than anything I always admired his work ethic.”
The team captain and face of the franchise during their sole season together, Bosh left an impression on DeRozan.
“I sat right next to him,” DeRozan said. “His locker was right next to mine. To play with an All-Star like that my rookie year, being the type of player he is, that helped me. Seeing the things he did when he was here was definitely great. It’s definitely big to hear those words from him, especially since it’s been three years since my rookie year.”