MIAMI—Down by 15 points early, the Toronto Raptors had no reason to panic.
Trouble brings out their best.
DeMar DeRozan scored 40 points, doing that back-to-back for the first time in his career, and the Raptors clamped down defensively in the final three quarters to beat the Miami Heat 101-84 last night.
Toronto now has won 19 games this season after trailing by at least 10 points—more than any team in the NBA.
“It talks about toughness, heart,” said Raptors' coach Dwane Casey.
“Our give-a-crap level is pretty high, and it's one of those things where when you count us out, we find a way,” he noted.
“My thing is just find five men who are going to play hard.”
Playing with 13 stitches in his right hand, along with some padding and bandages to protect the injury, Hassan Whiteside had 16 points and 14 rebounds for Miami.
Whiteside seemed a bit limited—his first two shots were rather gentle dunks, not his usual make-the-backboard-shake variety.
His injury situation even got worse. Whiteside sprained his left ankle late in the game.
“Very inspiring just to see him out there battling,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.
Even with one good hand at the start and one good ankle at the finish, Whiteside was one of Miami's lone offensive bright spots.
Rodney McGruder and Goran Dragic each scored 13 for Miami, which shot just 39 percent and tied its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
“No one's going to feel sorry for me,” said Whiteside, who had a bag over his cut hand, two icepacks on his knees, and a wrap on his newly-injured ankle as he sat at his locker post-game.
DeRozan needed 38 shots to score 42 points against Chicago on Tuesday.
He was much more effective in this one—shooting 14-for-25 from the field and 12-for-13 from the line.
“I was just trying to be aggressive and try to pick it up on the defensive end, as well, not just trying to go up there scoring,” noted DeRozan.
“We slowly started getting into it and started playing like we wanted to play.”
Neither team moved in the Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Toronto (43-29) remained in the No. 4 spot, pulling within a half-game of third-place Washington.
Miami (35-37) stayed No. 8 but now just a game ahead of Chicago and Detroit.
DeRozan became just the second player in Raptors' history to have a season where he scored 32 or more points at least 20 times.
He was an 11-year-old when it last happened—Vince Carter had 28 of those games in 2000-01.
It also was DeRozan's sixth 40-point game this season, extending his Toronto single-season mark.
The Raptors next visit Dallas tomorrow.
It's the second time this month that Toronto faces Miami and Dallas consecutively.