Raptors win at last

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:55 AM ET

The Heat is off.

Finally.

The Raptors' painful season-opening winless streak screeched to a halt at nine games yesterday thanks to an improbable 107-94 win over the Miami Heat before 17,594 fans at the Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors do not have to worry about matching the NBA record for consecutive losses to start a season -- 17 by the Los Angeles Clippers and Miami. And at this stage, who cares that the Heat were missing a guy named Shaquille O'Neal yesterday?

"That's how you win basketball games," said Raptors star forward Chris Bosh, who finally was rewarded with a win yesterday after picking up his NBA-high tying eighth double-double (27 points, 12 rebounds).

"Rebound the basketball, contest every shot, plug up the lanes, we did all of that. We just raised the bar as a team."

A game that started just like almost every Raptors game this season -- with Toronto trailing 10-1 at one point and 24-13 after a first quarter in which the home side hit an embarrassing three of 19 shots -- ended with an unforeseen explosion.

The Raptors, who trailed by as many as 15 in the second quarter, outscored the Heat 40-24 in the fourth.

"You can always tell the difference (in the dressing room after a win)," Raptors point guard Mike James said. "Everyone likes each other again. Guys feel good about the way we played."

Along with shooting 60% from the field and 12-of-13 from the free-throw line in the fourth, the Raptors ratcheted up their intensity on defence and made several big stops down the stretch.

The Raptors took their first lead of the game -- 87-86 -- with 4:24 left on a Bosh layup and then put it away. Charlie Villanueva followed Bosh's basket by going hard at Heat centre Alonzo Mourning. His dunk attempt was blocked, but he grabbed his own rebound and put it in for a huge basket.

"I had a bad offensive and defensive half but made it up in the second half," said Villanueva, who finished with eight points, six in the fourth quarter. "The second half is what counts the most, especially the fourth quarter."

From there, the Raptors just kept rolling. Dwyane Wade scored a game-high 33 points for the Heat, but the Raptors had three players top the 20-point barrier -- Bosh, James (25) and Jalen Rose (22). James knocked down a big-time three at the shot clock buzzer to put the Raptors up 96-88 with 1:45 to go.

"I don't say this a lot because it's almost a cliche, but they wanted it a lot more than we did," Heat coach Stan Van Gundy said.

Yes they did, especially with a four-game West Coast swing coming up.

"The mood always lightens after a win," Bosh said. "The people are nicer, the food tastes better, practice is more fun. It definitely gives us momentum."


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