Heat 103 Raptors 95
TORONTO — Chris Bosh threw down a fierce one-handed dunk during the second quarter Wednesday, hollering as he glared up into the crowd.
Bosh channelled the energy of a hostile gathering, scoring 25 points to lead the Heat to a 103-95 victory over the Raptors in his first time back in the city still stinging from his departure to Miami in the off-season.
And when the final whistle blew, the former Raptors captain walked off the court surrounded by security, then turning, he blew kisses to fans in all four corners of the arena.
Bosh admitted the jeers surprised him a bit.
“We are human,” Bosh said. “A town that supported you for so long, to hear some of that stuff, it makes you upset. I just tried to channel that into the game, I tried to channel that anger into that aggression, and just help my team win.”
He got some help from his superstar teammates. Dwyane Wade scored 28 points and LeBron James adding 23 points, 13 rebounds and eight points for the Heat (41-15).
The Heat’s victory spoiled a strong night for Andrea Bargnani, who topped Toronto with 38 points — 17 in the fourth quarter. DeMar DeRozan added 24, Jose Calderon had a game-high 14 assists, Ed Davis had 13 rebounds to go with eight points and Amir Johnson had 11 rebounds for the Raptors (40-16), who’ve won just twice in their last 19 games.
The Heat, second in the Eastern Conference behind Boston and a championship contender, led for all but a few first-quarter minutes and took an 80-72 lead into the fourth. But the Raptors fed off the energy of the noisy Air Canada Centre crowd in one of their better recent efforts, and a DeRozan jump shot with just under six minutes to go in the game cut the Heat’s lead to just four points.
Bargnani drained two three-pointers in the final 2:42 but the good vibe in the arena disappeared when James scored twice in the final 1:27, and Bosh, in a fitting ending to the evening, connected on a pair of free throws for the final points of the game to seal the victory for Miami.
Bosh was asked if his post-game kisses were sarcastic.
“What does sarcasm mean?” he kidded.
“It’s the whole Valentines week, I get it,” James added, to laughter from reporters.
“It’s his favourite holiday,” Bosh said, then on a serious note, added: “We’ve been getting booed, people have been saying all kinds of things in all kinds of ways, everywhere. We use that as motivation, we don’t let that get to us, we know that we have each other and the whole team. So when people go talking at the mouth, saying ignorant, crazy stuff, we love it, it helps us, it motivates us, it really works out in the end.”
The Heat became the team everyone loves to hate in the off-season compiling a star-studded lineup by signing Bosh and James. Bosh went from being the cornerstone of a franchise to one of a locker-room of stars, but said it’s all in the name of winning a championship.
His performance against Toronto was an improvement on the 18.4 points a night he’d been averaging this season, and the six-foot-10 forward looked completely unruffled by his hostile reception — at least on the court —shooting 7-for-16 from the floor and 11-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“I think he was great,” Heat coach Erik Spoekstra said of Bosh. “He handles these things very well. We are all happy for Chris.”
Bosh wasn’t the first Raptors star to book a ticket out of Toronto, joining Damon Stoudamire, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter on the list of players who left fans feeling cheated.
The Bosh-bashers had this date circled on their calendars since the Raptors’ former captain left for Miami in the off-season, hoping for a shot, he said, at an NBA championship.
“Fans are passionate. They believe that you should live your life or career through them, and when you don’t do that, they automatically turn, I know that firsthand,” James said. “It was just great to see him come out there, he was very aggressive from the start, and he helped us win this basketball game and we wanted to be there for him as a brother and as a teammate. I understand exactly what he went through tonight.”
Bosh admitted he was surprised by the reception he’s received from Jay Triano. He said he was ignored when he tried to shake the hand of the Raptors coach when the two teams first met in Miami.
“I’ll try to say hello but if he’s not feeling it, it’s all good,” Triano said. “It surprises me, at the end of the day this is a game, this is business for us, but it’s a game. If you spent a significant amount of time with someone, you say, ’Hey, how are you doing, how’s the family,’ that’s it.”
Wednesday’s capacity crowd of 19,800 — just the fourth sellout of the season, and all clad in Raptors-red soccer-style scarves — booed the player they once serenaded with chants of “M-V-P!” They booed Bosh every time he touched the ball and even booed him when the camera panned his face during the U.S. anthem. And they didn’t stop there, booing James as well.
“If people don’t support you now, they never supported you at any time, switching teams, it really doesn’t mean that much,” Bosh said. “If things can change that quick, they were never with you in the first place.”
Dozens of signs dotted the crowd — “CB4gotten,” “Miami Cheat,” and “Boooosh.” One poster read “Two-and-Half Men” with photos of the three stars, a reference to Scottie Pippen’s description of the team’s three stars as “two and a half players, since I don’t think Chris Bosh is half the player of LeBron James.”
Bosh did have some fans in the building — a group of shirtless men spelled the words “Love Bosh” on their bare chests.
The atmosphere wasn’t as chilly as what awaited Carter when he first returned in 2005 with New Jersey, when fans donned No. 15 baby bibs, and wasn’t nearly as hostile, according to the Heat players, as the crowd that welcomed James back to Cleveland the first time.
Bargnani and Calderon had the crowd roaring, opening the game with back-to-back three-pointers that put Toronto up 6-0. But the Raptors couldn’t maintain the pace against an opponent that shot 61 per cent in the quarter as the Heat led 29-27 heading into the second.
“We were right there at the end but we didn’t make our shots,” said Calderon. “(The energy in the building) was great. It reminded me of a couple of years when we were in the playoffs. The fans were outstanding tonight. I think we enjoyed it but we couldn’t finish.”
Bosh scored eight points in the second as the Heat twice went up by six points. A DeRozan jumper with less than a minute to go cut the Heat’s lead to 50-46 at halftime.
Wade poured in 11 points in the third, his three-pointer putting the Heat up 63-50 at 8:22, the visitors’ biggest lead to that point. Toronto chipped away at the difference, and after Raptors guard Leandro Barbosa was fouled on a three-point attempt and drained all three free throws with 33 seconds left, the Heat led 80-72 with a quarter to go.
NOTES —Rocker Jon Bon Jovi was among the crowd. . . The Heat had already beaten Toronto twice this season in Miami — 109-100 on Nov. 13 and 120-103 on Jan. 22. . . The Raptors’ other sellouts this season were against Boston, the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Clippers. . . The Raptors host the Heat once more in their regular-season finale April 13.