MIAMI -- LeBron James took a hard foul and clearly was not happy. So the next time he saw the ball, he made sure no Toronto player could reach him.
James' steal and dunk with just more than two minutes left gave Miami some breathing room, and the Heat held on to defeat the Toronto Raptors 95-89 on Sunday. James finished with 30 points and Dwyane Wade added 25 for the Heat (18-6), who won for the 10th time in its last 12 games and moved within one game of Chicago (20-6) for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
"We stuck with our principles," James said. "And that's to defend."
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"I liked our disposition," Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. "I liked the way we approached it. I liked the way we competed."
Kleiza's 3-pointer with just under five minutes left got Toronto within eight, and another 3 from Bayless as the shot clock expired on the next Raptors' possession cut the Miami lead to 85-80 -- the closest the game had been since early in the third quarter.
Bayless scored again to get the Raptors within three and cap a 12-0 Toronto run. And after Bosh missed a fadeaway from the right baseline, Bayless tried a 3-pointer to tie. It bounced off, and with the game in the balance, James went to work.
He was fouled by James Johnson and made two free throws with 2:20 left, not before letting anyone around him know he wasn't pleased with the physicality of the play. The next time James touched the ball, he didn't give the Raptors a chance to foul him -- his steal and two-handed slam with 2:07 left gave Miami an 89-82 edge and all but ensured the win.
"Good back-to-back plays for our team and I was happy I was able to make them," James said.
James -- who leads the NBA in first-quarter scoring this season (9.1 points a game) -- got off to another big start, making his first five shots and scoring 12 points in the opening quarter. He's now shooting just under 60 percent in first quarters this season.
While scoring wasn't an issue, the Heat were far from in the clear.
Casey told the Raptors that establishing pace and limiting turnovers -- especially early -- would be big keys. Seemed like his team got the message: The Raptors matched a season-high with 27 points in the first quarter, and turned the ball over only five times in the first half. That, combined with DeRozan tying his season best with 16 points in the opening two quarters, kept the Raptors close.
"It just shows that we can compete with anybody," DeRozan said.
Miami's lead was only 53-48 at the break, and that was even after James and Wade combined to score 22 points in the opening quarter on 8 for 9 shooting.
"We knew it was going to be one of those grind-out kind of games," Wade said. "We understand that a lot of teams do that when they play the Heat - come out on fire."
In the third quarter, the Heat finally took control -- not surprisingly, when the defense picked up a notch.
Toronto missed all but one of its shots over a seven-minute stretch of the third, a span where Miami started with a 55-54 lead and increased it 73-57. Chalmers hit back-to-back 3-pointers late in the 18-3 run, James made a fadeaway with 3:27 to play in the period to close the flurry.
"Our energy was good," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Even throughout the game, I didn't have a problem with the energy. ... It was more of a real concentration and a discipline toward the end of the [shot] clock. And that's something we'll have to continue to get better at."
And, just as Casey feared, turnovers proved decisive. Toronto committed eight in the third, which Miami turned into nine points. Miami gave the ball away only twice in the third, and the Raptors didn't score on either.
"Next time we've got to come out and make the plays and close," Bayless said.
|Leading the league in first-quarter scoring with 9.1 ppg, LeBron James hits for 12 to open vs. Toronto. (Getty Images)|
|Miami (18-6) «||31||22||22||20||95|
|TOR:D. DeRozan 25 Pts
TOR:E. Davis 8 Reb
TOR:J. Johnson 4 Ast
|MIA:L. James 30 Pts
MIA:L. James 9 Reb
MIA:C. Bosh 4 Ast
|Players of the Game|
|J. Bayless, PG||39||6-16||1-2||3||3||4||17|
|D. DeRozan, SG||37||8-16||9-11||3||3||2||25|
|J. Calderon, PG||26||4-8||0-0||0||3||0||8|
|J. Johnson, PF||18||2-4||0-0||5||4||4||4|
|A. Gray, C||17||2-5||0-0||3||0||2||4|
|E. Davis, PF||30||4-5||0-0||8||0||2||8|
|L. Kleiza, SF||24||5-13||5-6||5||1||3||17|
|A. Johnson, SF||19||1-3||0-0||6||0||5||2|
|L. Barbosa, SG||12||1-8||0-0||0||3||2||2|
|J. Magloire, C||9||0-0||0-0||3||0||0||0|
|G. Forbes, SF||5||1-1||0-0||1||0||1||2|
|R. Butler, SG||3||0-0||0-2||1||0||0||0|
|A. Carter, PG||Did Not Play|
|A. Bargnani, C||Did Not Play|
|S. Alabi, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|L. James, SF||38||10-17||10-12||9||2||1||30|
|C. Bosh, PF||37||3-13||6-6||8||4||2||12|
|D. Wade, SG||34||8-14||9-12||2||3||1||25|
|M. Chalmers, PG||27||4-7||0-0||2||4||2||11|
|J. Anthony, C||21||1-1||0-0||2||0||3||2|
|U. Haslem, PF||26||2-3||4-4||9||0||4||8|
|M. Miller, SF||22||1-5||0-0||1||0||5||3|
|S. Battier, SF||17||0-4||0-0||1||1||0||0|
|N. Cole, PG||17||2-5||0-0||2||1||1||4|
|J. Howard, PF||Did Not Play|
|E. Curry, C||Did Not Play|
|J. Jones, SF||Did Not Play|
|D. Pittman, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Gladness, C||Did Not Play|
|T. Harris, SG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|