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Raptors move closer to final playoff spot in the East

3/8/2002

MIAMI -- The Toronto Raptors finally got it right after a
month of failure.

The Raptors, despite playing without Vince Carter for much of
the first half because of foul trouble, snapped a 13-game losing
streak by beating the Miami Heat 83-74 Friday night.

The Raptors avoided moving closer to the NBA's longest losing
skid this season of 15 games, set by the Houston Rockets.

Toronto, winning for the first time since Feb. 7, also got back
on track in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Raptors moved
ahead of the Heat and pulled with one game of Washington for the
final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

"Tonight was a great win," Raptors coach Lenny Wilkens said.
"We needed to get a win, and to do it on the other team's home
court when they have been playing well is big.

"It's a great feeling. They've been working hard and trying
hard, and tonight our defense came through."

Miami had its four-game winning streak snapped. The Heat lost
for only the second time in eight games and were coming off a road
sweep against Dallas, Detroit and Chicago.

The Heat then lost to a team that entered in a free-fall.

"You can attribute it to a lack of concentration," Heat
forward Brian Grant said. "This game was too big for us to just
give away like that. You would think we would have competed better,
but once they smelled blood, they jumped to seize the moment."

Antonio Davis scored 23 points and added 10 rebounds for the
Raptors. Carter, who played only 6 minutes in the first half after
picking up three fouls, scored 16 points in 27 minutes.

"This was the first step in getting us back in position for the
playoffs," said Carter, who sat out the second quarter and watched
the Heat build a 51-44 lead.

Eddie Jones led the Heat with 22 points, and Alonzo Mourning
added 16. Grant had 10 points to go along with 14 rebounds.

The Heat committed 23 turnovers and ran into a scoring drought
in the second half, finishing with 23 points, matching their season
low for a half.

Trailing 64-62 entering the final period, the Heat didn't score
until Mourning's free throw with 6:13 left.

The Raptors scored the first 13 points in the fourth quarter,
opening a 75-62 lead on Davis' three-point play with 6:52 left.

The Heat, who played themselves into playoff contention with a
19-6 record since Jan. 14, perhaps ran into the one team equally as
desperate. The Raptors were 29-21 before beginning their tumble,
but stopped their skid just in time to cool off the Heat.

"As soon as they sensed that we weren't right, they just took
advantage," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "From that point on, they
just pretty much dominated us. Once they got up by six or seven,
they were not going to be denied."

Toronto wiped out a 51-44 halftime deficit with a strong third
quarter, outscoring Miami 20-11. Carter, who scored only five
points in the first half, had eight points in the period.

The Raptors took their first lead at 56-54 on Davis' layup and
pulled away in the fourth quarter.

Hakeem Olajuwon had 13 points and seven rebounds in 24 minutes
for Toronto.

"This game was important for us because we had been losing too
many of these," Olajuwon said. "Tonight, everybody was focused.
You could see the intensity on defense. It shows us that when we
come together determined, that's the way we have to play every
game."

Game notes
The first half had its share of flareups. Carter and
Kendall Gill nearly came to blows in the first quarter and were
assessed technical fouls. With 1:05 left in the half, Heat backup
center Vladimir Stepania picked up a flagrant foul against Davis,
who was then hit with a technical for his reaction on the play. ...
The Heat are 10-2 at home against the Raptors. ... Brian Grant
moved into 10th place on Miami's career rebounding list with 1,126.
... After scoring 109 and 103 points the previous two games, the
Raptors were held under 100. They scored less than 100 points in
the first 11 games of the losing streak.