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Heat Burn Up Raptors

After a slow climb, Miami is enjoying the view from atop the Atlantic Division.

Despite playing its third game in four days, for the second straight night Miami blew open a close game with suffocating defense in the third quarter to beat the Toronto Raptors 83-73 Thursday.

Miami's ninth straight win at home and 14th victory in its last 16 games kept the Heat in first place, ahead of the Orlando Magic by 1½ games.

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  • "It's where we belong," said Alonzo Mourning, who scored 20 of his 23 points in the first half, and had 16 rebounds. "I think it's a matter of us maintaining and staying there. It's a little more comfortable spot for us."

    Tim Hardaway scored eight of his 10 points in the third quarter to spark a 15-0 run, turning a 47-46 deficit into a substantial lead.

    "When you look in the papers every day and see us fighting behind by two or three games, I didn't think we'd ever get sole possession of first," said P.J. Brown. "We have to continue to work hard. Too bad the season doesn't end today."

    Miami outscored Toronto 28-8, a season-low allowed in any quarter by the Heat, and led the Raptors 65-50 after three.

    "We got stronger as the game progressed," said Heat coach Pat Riley. "The third quarter was outstanding."

    Clarence Weatherspoon added a season-igh 22 points for Miami.

    John Wallace scored 20 points and Vince Carter had 16 -- 14 coming in the first half -- to pace the Raptors, who have dropped their last seven games with the Heat.

    Toronto made just 2-of-18 from the field in the third quarter, the least amount of field goals in any quarter in franchise history. The eight points was also a club low.

    "Being young has nothing to do with us making so many mistakes and making just 2-of-18 in the third quarter," said Toronto coach Butch Carter. "We lost this one, player vs. player and coach vs. coach."

    Moments after Dan Majerle's layup gave Miami its first lead, 46-45 with 8:57 left in the third quarter, Doug Christie's two free throws put Toronto back in front 47-46.

    Hardaway, who recorded 10 assists, then scored five points of the 15-0 burst, giving Miami a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Hardaway then punctuated the 28-8 quarter with a 3-pointer with two seconds left, staking the Heat to a 65-50 lead after three.

    "It's nice to be in first place," Hardaway said. "We're playing hard, doing the right things."

    The eight points allowed by Miami was a franchise-record for fewest points yielded in the third quarter.

    Toronto was unable to chop Miami's lead under double figures in the fourth quarter and wound up with a season-low 73, four points less than the 77 scored in a 91-77 loss to Milwaukee on Feb. 9.

    "It happens," Carter said of the third-quarter collapse in which Toronto went 10:04 between field goals.

    Mourning scored 11 points in the second quarter, but Carter's 14 first-half points helped Toronto take a 42-37 halftime lead.


    • Miami's 20-point differential in the third quarter was the largest in any quarter this season.
    • When Miami fell behind 9-0, it marked the biggest deficit to start a game this season.
    • Toronto placed Negele Knight on the injured list with a lower back strain and activated Micheal Williams, who had been out with an injured foot. Knight will be out at least a week.
    • Miami has outscored its opponents in the second half in 15 of the last 16 games.
    • Dan Majerle's 3-pointer in the first quarter extended Miami's NBA record of consecutive games with at least one 3 to 395.
    • Tim Hardaway's 3-pointer in the third quarter gives him a streak of 24 games with at least one.
    • Miami is 11-2 against Toronto and hasn't lost to the Raptors since March 30, 1997.
    • Miami's mark for fewest points allowed in a quarter is six points.
    • The start of the second half was delayed sven minutes due to a net replacement.

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