HEAT 103 - Raptors 95 Recap

There was little outstanding about the Miami HEAT’s 103-95 victory over the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night. The HEAT did just enough, according to Erik Spoelstra, but sometimes just enough still warrants mentioning.

“It’s not good enough to get where we want to go,” Spoelstra said. “It was not our best game, but our guys definitely wanted to band together and win it for [Chris Bosh].”

On a night devoid of drama outside of the initial fervor over Chris Bosh’s return to his former arena, on the second night of a back-to-back, in their last game before the All-Star break, the HEAT didn’t impress with full-court alley-oops or feats of individual domination. They just absorbed Toronto’s initial burst, took a lead and held it just out of the Raptors’ reach the rest of the evening.

Miami scored 107 points per 100 possessions and got 76 points out of the Bosh (25), LeBron James and Dwyane Wade trio, with 32 free-throw attempts among them. Bosh played a controlled, patient game on a night when nobody would have blamed him for forcing his offense. And despite the offense again suffering from a lack of movement, the HEAT made enough good-chemistry plays in the fourth quarter that any brief Toronto run quickly became, at worst, a sequence of trading baskets.

But with so much seeming ordinary about this one, there were still two important lineup developments.

With Mike Miller held out of the game for precautionary reasons after an elbow to the head last night in Indiana, Spoelstra opted for a smaller bench unit that included Carlos Arroyo, who hadn’t played more than the 15 minutes he played tonight since January 13. Arroyo didn’t shoot the ball well, missing his only two attempts from the field, but he did make an impact on the game with an alley-oop pass off the dribble and an important offensive rebound in the second half.

Whether by coincidence or not, Mario Chalmers also had one of his finest games in recent memory with a pair of second-half steals, a three and six assists, including an unselfish dump-off pass in the open court for a James dunk.

But the most lasting effect on Miami’s lineups may be the recent play of Erick Dampier, who completed his back back-to-back stretch of games in a HEAT uniform with eight points, 10 rebounds and a pair of blocks in 28 minutes.

As the first center off the bench for starter Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Dampier – seemingly mismatched with Toronto’s Andrea Bargnani (38 points) – used his size to deter any forays into the painted area. He read offensive situations well, as he had the night before in Indiana, making cuts into the lane when the defense sagged off of him, and may have had the two most important hustle plays in the game.

The first, a tip-in with 1:49 to play, put Miami back up seven after Toronto had closed the lead to four during Bargnani’s scorching 17-point fourth-quarter streak. And the second play sealed the game, a tip-out offensive rebound of a James miss that got to the hands of Bosh, who put the game away with a pair of free throws.

And now the HEAT head into the break with their three All-Stars, 11-3 on the second night of back-to-backs, tied for first in the Eastern Conference with the Boston Celtics (who own the tiebreaker) having won 10 of their last 11 games. The final one may not have been memorable, but it gives the HEAT peace of mind as they take some much-needed time off.

“It’s satisfying. We still would have liked to get that game in Boston. But it’s OK,” Chris Bosh said.

“All in all we finished out strong. Now it’s time to start thinking about that No. 1 seed.”

Thinking about the top seed, sure, but according to Spoelstra, also trying to find their ceiling as a team, which is as, if not more important that anything else.