Raptors hope to continue fast start vs. Heat
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TORONTO -- After 20 games of their season, the Toronto Raptors have never been better.
They disposed of the Washington Wizards 125-107 on Friday night to improve to 16-4, the best start after 20 games in franchise history. The Raptors opened the 2014-15 season by winning 15 of their first 20 games.
The Raptors, who have won four in a row after losing three straight, play their next game Sunday at Scotiabank Arena against the Miami Heat, which ended a three-game losing streak Friday with a 103-96 victory Friday in Chicago against the Bulls.
The Raptors have had the strong start even though they have seldom had a full regular lineup playing at one time because of injuries and Kawhi Leonard being rested in one game of a back-to-back set.
"We're playing well, I still think we can get better," said Leonard, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Friday night. "Our whole lineup hasn't been here, guys have been out, so once we just get everybody here, and playing, like I said this upcoming schedule is going to be good, just all of us playing, and getting that rhythm of playing, one day off and then game, it's going to be good."
The Heat (7-11) nearly wasted a 26-point lead in Chicago but Josh Richardson scored 12 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra used Richardson in the closing minutes instead of veteran star Dwyane Wade.
"I didn't necessarily do it on purpose, but I did want to see that group finish without Dwyane," Spoelstra said. "I did not want to see him go in there and all of a sudden everyone defers to him. We're going to need that, obviously, because Dwyane is obviously one of the best ever in this league in closing games, but (Richardson) has been in this situation before a few times. I thought his poise and preparation to get to the proper spots was much better, much more detailed, and even made some plays out of that, which shows growth."
Wade appreciates Richardson's emergence as a go-to-player. "I think he understands that he's our guy," Wade said. "We're going to him. He's picking up the phone every time we call him for the most part."
The game Sunday will be the first of four meetings this season. The Raptors are 10-0 against teams with records that are below .500.
Bad news for the Heat is that the Raptors found their 3-point game that has been missing Friday night. Toronto hit on a season-best 17 shots from 3-point range for a .436 percentage from beyond the arc. OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet and Danny Green each made three 3-pointers to lead the team.
Anunoby scored 15 points in his return after missing three games with a sprained wrist. C.J. Miles scored nine points Friday after missing five games with a strained adductor.
Toronto ranks ninth in the NBA averaging 11.5 3-pointers per game. Miami ranks seventh, averaging 11.8 3-pointers.
"I think when guys are hitting them, it does spread," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "And I think the same applies when you miss a bunch in a row, and the next one the guys are maybe pressing a little bit, so it was good to see it going that way. That was maybe our start back to things evening out a little bit."
Heat forward James Johnson recorded three points, five assists and four rebounds in playing 26 minutes in his first start of the season Friday. It was his third game since returning from sports hernia surgery performed in May.
"I'm going to try to fast-track him as much as possible but not at the thought of trying to jam in 30 minutes," Spoelstra said. "He's going to be a big part of what we're doing."
Updated November 25, 2018