TORONTO — DeMar DeRozan had a strong first half and finished with 38 points to go with six rebounds as the Raptors beat the Miami Heat 96-94 on Friday night in Toronto's final home game of the regular season.
Canadian point guard Cory Joseph came off the bench with 14 points and three assists for Toronto (49-31), who cut the idle Boston Celtics lead in the Atlantic Division to 1 1/2 games. Kyle Lowry had 12 points, six assists and seven rebounds in his first game back in Toronto since wrist surgery on March 1 forced him to miss 18 games.
Lowry had returned to the Raptors lineup on Wednesday, scoring 27 points with 10 assists and five rebounds in their 105-102 win in Detroit but mentioned earlier Friday that he was sore.
Former Raptor James Johnson led the Heat (38-41) with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Goran Dragic added 18 points.
The Raptors final two games of the regular season are on Sunday in New York against the Knicks and Wednesday in Cleveland.
Toronto's opponent in the first round of the playoffs is still to be determined. There are five possible opponents as the Eastern Conference's final standings shake out including: Atlanta, Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana and Miami.
DeRozan, Joseph and Lowry were the focal point of the Raptors offence as head coach Dwane Casey went with a smaller lineup to match the Heat's speedy roster.
A Hassan Whiteside alley-oop dunk with 4:43 left in the fourth quarter tied the game 82-82 for Miami, but DeRozan responded with a three-pointer on Toronto's next possession.
Whiteside came right back with a hook shot, but a pair of free throws by DeRozan, and stiff defence from the Raptors that led to back-to-back layups by Lowry and DeRozan, made it 90-84 with 1:52 left to play.
Lowry waved his arms to encourage the sell-out crowd of 19,800 at Air Canada Centre to keep chanting M-V-P as DeRozan sank two free throws. Miami replied with two made free throws by Dragic and Whiteside, and a driving layup by Johnson to cut Toronto's lead to 92-88.
DeRozan's driving finger-roll layup brought the fans back to their feet. Wayne Ellington drained a three-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to play, but it wasn't enough for the Heat. DeRozan closed out his night with a pair of free throws, although Tyler Johnson made one last three-pointer for Miami in the dying seconds of the game.
A two-handed dunk by DeRozan with 2:36 left in the first gave the Raptors their first lead of the game after trailing by as much as seven. Toronto ended the quarter on a 12-2 run led by DeRozan, building a 26-19 advantage.
DeRozan's domination of the game continued in the second quarter. He scored 25 points in the half, nine in the second quarter, as the Raptors took a 53-43 lead into the intermission.
Whiteside led a small Miami comeback in the third, scoring seven points and pulling down four rebounds in the quarter as Miami cut Toronto's lead to 70-65.
Notes: Blue Jays great Joe Carter was sitting courtside and Canadian tennis phenom Denis Shapovalov from nearby Richmond Hill, Ont., was also in attendance. ... DeRozan addressed the crowd before the game and thanked them for their support all season.
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