Heat try to ground new-look Raptors

By
Updated: February 3, 2013

The Miami Heat have dominated the Toronto Raptors in recent
history and will try to continue that trend Sunday afternoon when the two meet
at Air Canada Centre.

The Heat have won nine in a row against their rivals from the great north,
including a 123-116 overtime thriller in Miami on Jan. 23. Dwyane Wade went
for a season-high 35 points and LeBron James went for a triple-double with 31
points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.

But this is a different Raptors team, evidenced by Rudy Gay’s immediate impact
on the squad. The Raptors acquired Gay on Wednesday and he went off for 20
points in his Toronto debut Friday night, a win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Raptors earned a great win over one of the NBA’s elite on Friday, but will
have to face another of the league’s best on Sunday.

James was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January, the third
month in a row with that honor, but the Heat have lost two of their last
three. In a crucial Eastern matchup Friday night at Indiana against the
Pacers, the Heat were trounced, 102-89.

“They’re a good basketball team, especially at home,” James said of the
Pacers. “They are not as good on the road. They’re kind of like us in that
regard, a great team at home, struggling a little on the road.”

James led the way with 28 points, while Wade chipped in 17. Chris Bosh added
13 points and Shane Battier contributed 11 points off the bench.

The Heat have allowed 100-plus points in three of their last five outings,
although, two of those came in overtime games. Still, Miami’s defense has
improved as the season has gone on, moving up to 13th in opponents’ scoring.
While that’s middle of the pack, it’s up from earlier in the season.

The Raptors handed the Clippers their worst loss of the season on Friday and
Gay was critical. He was great in his almost 33 minutes off the bench, but the
scoring punch he’ll provide with DeMar DeRozan should be fun to watch for
Raptors fans.

“DeMar is a great player, he’s by far the best two guard I’ve ever played
with,” Gay said. “I think for us to be really good, we have to have that kind
of interaction together and it’s just the start of it. The more practice, the
better we’ll get.”

Amir Johnson scored 19 points and grabbed a career-best 16 rebounds. John
Lucas III netted 17 off the bench.

Jonas Valanciunas returned after an 18-game absence with a broken right ring
finger. He played 13 minutes in a reserve role and didn’t score a single
point.

Andrea Bargnani is officially listed as day-to-day with his elbow ailment. He
went No. 1 in the same draft Gay went eighth.

“When I first spoke with Rudy the other night after the trade had been
consummated, he asked me point blank: ‘Why didn’t you just draft me in the
first place?'” said Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo. “Well, we got
you. One way or the other, we got you.”

The Raptors haven’t won in this series since Jan. 27, 2010.