NBA wrap: Tempers flare as Heat nips Raptors for fifth straight win

A month ago the Miami Heat was below .500 and going nowhere. It is now tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference.

Miami Heat's head-coach Erik Spoelstra has, in the past month, managed to put the right combination on the floor far more often than not.   -  AFP

The Miami Heat provided more evidence Tuesday night it is a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference, knocking off the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, 90-89, for its fifth straight win.

Wayne Ellington's acrobatic layup with less than a second to play snapped Toronto's 12-game home winning streak.

Tempers flared a couple of times between the two teams in a very physical game. Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and Heat forward James Johnson exchanged punches and were ejected midway through the third quarter. After the game, Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan and Heat guard Goran Dragic engaged in a heated exchange.

A month ago, the Heat was slumming around with a sub-.500 mark (11-13). That kind of performance will leave a team on the outside-looking-in come playoff time, a feeling the Heat know well — its 41-41 record last season left it ninth in the Eastern Conference.

After its fifth straight victory, Miami is now tied for fourth in the East. Everyone has been contributing; the Heat has eight players averaging double digits in scoring, a rarity. Coach Erik Spoelstra has had to shuffle the lineup around due to injuries this season, but in the past month, he's managed to put the right combination on the floor far more often than not.

STUD OF THE NIGHT

Portland Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum had 27 points and seven assists as Portland beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 117-106.

DUD OF THE NIGHT

Orlando Magic starting forward Jonathon Simmons had more fouls (4) than points (3) in Orlando's loss to the Dallas Mavericks. He went into the game averaging 14.3 points per game.