However, Miami rallied in the second and led by as many as eight points. It's a matter of attitude and making sure we execute.
And although the Raps ended with six players in double digits, including 27 points from DeMar DeRozan and 22 points from Kyle Lowry, that wasn't the highlight of the night. Winners of seven straight games and sitting comfortably at 41-16 this season, the Raptors have built themselves a comfortable two-game cushion over the former leader Boston Celtics and carved a six-and-a-half game differential with Eastern powerhouse Cleveland Cavaliers.
Goran Dragic led the way for the Heat (30-27) with 28 points, including 16 points in the third quarter. He had eight points and three assists in 20 minutes after missing 11 games because of a concussion. It was his third game since returning to the club in a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 8. Winning twice there, against a team that's No. 1 in the East and 24-4 at home, was apparently too much to expect.
Even so, Casey wasn't thrilled with Tuesday's effort.
"I'm upset, even though we won, because I know - I know what's coming around the corner", Casey said after his team ran its record to 40-16 with the National Basketball Association all-star break coming Thursday. "Like you're going down a dark alley, here comes a group of guys with a baseball bat and you say, 'oh, hey, where's the baseball game?' It's 12 o'clock at night, you know what's coming around the corner". They finished the game with 16 total turnovers and the Raptors capitalized off of many of them, scoring 28 points off turnovers in the game. They were Lowry's only two made baskets of the second quarter. The Raptors led 57-55 at halftime.
With Toronto almost blowing a lead late in the fourth quarter, one particular strategy jumps out. DeRozan scored 19 points in the quarter, nine of them in a 21-4 run over the final 4:34 as the Raptors took a 98-81 lead into the fourth. "This is a great fast-breaking team, and if you give them opportunities, they'll tear it up".
The Heat outplayed the Raptors in the final quarter, outscoring Toronto 31-17.
Lowry made four 3-pointers, and he and Ibaka each grabbed seven rebounds.
"We feel we're a good team but we have some work to do", Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We could have closed it out better".
The Raptors have won 10 of their last 12 games, but their job isn't done yet, as they face a heavy road schedule in March, playing the likes of the fourth-place Washington Wizards, the Cavs, and the Celtics - all pivotal games for retaining the top spot.
But being able to claim a victory despite ending the game badly is a sign of how far Toronto have come this season.