Tuesday night, LeBron was the best player in Canada too.
The Miami Heat got their passports and headed due north to play the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night. After struggling for most of the first half, Miami opened up a lead and held off the Raptors for a 104-95 victory.
LeBron James was superb, and he carried the Heat throughout the game. He finished with 35 points, while Dwyane Wade added 20 of his own. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 21 points, but Rudy Gay shot just 3-of-10 and finished with 13 points to go with 10 boards.
The Heat were behind almost the entire first half, trailing 9-2 after a slow start and 45-34 following a second-quarter lull. Then Mario Chalmers displayed a superb sense of timing, drilling a three-pointer to beat the buzzer and put the Heat up 52-50, their only lead of the half.
The Raptors have become one of the league's best rebounding teams, and Miami had no answer for them early with Chris Bosh out on paternity leave. Jonas Valanciunas had four of Toronto's 11 offensive rebounds in the first half and tallied 13 points by the break. But Valanciunas sat for a large portion of the second half and played only 27 minutes, which helped Miami close the rebounding gap.
It was a solid win for the Heat, but they didn't put the Raptors away until the final minute. Still, the lineup looked good, considering they had no Bosh. Shane Battier stepped up in a big way, while Udonis Haslem turned into a ghost. Read on for full grades of every Heat player.
Mario Chalmers will rarely dazzle you with his stats, but he quietly turned in a solid all-around performance against the Raptors. He commanded a Miami offense that combined to dish at least 30 team assists for the fourth game in a row.
Chalmers totaled seven assists, five points, four rebounds and two steals. He did a little bit of everything in his 28 minutes, and yet again Tuesday night, he served an an effective cog in the Swiss clock that is the Heat offense.
The Heat have started the season with a middling 2-2 record. Dwyane Wade offered some surprising comments prior to Sunday's win, saying, per Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:
"If you're in a relationship with a woman for a long time, you start getting comfortable. You stop doing the little things that you should do, that you did in the beginning. It's just like a relationship. We got a little comfortable. Now we have to get back on that edge a little bit."
With Chris Bosh sitting the game out, D-Wade had some alone time to work on his relationship with LeBron. The good news is that it seems everything is fine. Wade finished with 20 points on 9-of-19 from the floor, adding six rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals. Wade looked energetic on both ends of the floor, although DeMar DeRozan did turn in a nice game with 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting.
Wade and James dominated the Raptors and commanded the Heat offense all game long, combining for 55 of the team's 104 points.
Shane Battier had shot just 1-of-14 from the field over his last three games, but with Chris Bosh out on family leave, Erik Spoelstra deployed a small lineup by starting Battier at the 3 and shifting LeBron James to the 4.
That move seemed to instill confidence in the 35-year-old veteran, as he drained his first two shots of the game, including a three-pointer. He also offered his unique brand of intelligent and irritating defense.
Battier ended with a modest stat line to the tune of eight points, two boards, two assists, a steal and a block, but what he brings to the team is often not reflected in the stat line. Through his pesky defense and intelligent play, Battier is almost always an asset on the court. And that is even more true when his shots are falling.
LeBron James wasted no time in making some history on Tuesday night. He dropped 10 points in the first quarter to become the fifth NBA player ever to record at least 500 consecutive games with at least 10 points. He joins Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (two separate streaks of more than 500 games), Moses Malone, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan, who had 866 straight double-digit scoring performances.
Naturally, LeBron had a great game after he set the historic mark as well. He topped 30 points for the first time this season, going for 35 on 13-of-20 shooting, plus eight boards, eight dimes and a blocked shot. He carried the team in the first half, then he carried the team in the second half and kept the Raptors at bay down the stretch.
Toronto closed the gap to just six points with under two minutes left, but James took the ball and knifed to the hoop for the bucket and the foul, completing the three-point play and effectively putting the game out of reach.
He also took care of any concerns about his free-throw shooting by going 8-of-8 from the charity stripe. Sun Sports announcers reported that LeBron put in some extra work at the foul line before the game, just to prove that even the greatest players can use a little more practice sometimes. We're talking about practice!
Udonis Haslem couldn't find much room to work on Tuesday night and looked a little lost without Chris Bosh up front with him. Haslem got off to a slow-as-molasses start and played so poorly that Spo had to call on Joel Anthony for nearly nine first-half minutes.
Haslem ended with zero points and missed four shots, but he did collect five rebounds in his 22 minutes, including four on the offensive glass. Suffice to say, Amir Johnson has youth on his side, but Haslem did not look effective up front on most possessions.
Haslem got abused by Jonas Valanciunas in the first half, as the Heat got beat up on the offensive boards 11-4. On the plus side, he did tie Rony Seikaly for most offensive rebounds in Heat franchise history.
What's the saying? Beauty before youth?
Miami's bench looked strong in totaling 36 points against Toronto.
Ray Allen was feeling it as he dropped a trio of three-pointers on his way to 14 points. The wily veteran also added four boards and a steal. He finished up a robust plus-22 for the evening, easily a game high. He got game.
Chris Andersen, who some of you may only know as "Birdman," was both bruising and efficient in his 17 minutes. He notched six points on 3-of-4 from the field with three rebounds. He also committed four fouls because he is, after all, Birdman.
Norris Cole did a little bit of everything when called upon, totaling six points, three boards, two assists and a steal. Known mostly for his flattop last year, Cole is rounding into a player with sneakily effective talent. Meanwhile, Rashard Lewis dished five dimes off the bench and scored four points.
Joel Anthony saw some time since Chris Bosh was at home with the newest member of his family. Anthony snatched a pair of rebounds and blocked a shot. He did not attempt a field goal, which is probably for the best. On the subject of also-rans, Michael Beasley got six points and a block! You may want to go out and buy his jersey right now.
Miami will head back to the United States to prepare for its game against the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night in South Florida.