Los Angeles, January 10: The Miami Heat provided more evidence they are a legitimate force in the NBA's Eastern Conference after upstaging the Toronto Raptors 90-89.
Wayne Ellington's acrobatic layup with less than a second to play on Tuesday snapped Toronto's 12-game home winning streak, while extending Miami's unbeaten run to five games.
Tempers flared between the two teams in a very physical game. Raptors forward Serge Ibaka and the Heat's James Johnson exchanged punches and were ejected midway through the third quarter.
After the game, Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan and Heat guard Goran Dragic engaged in a heated exchange.
A month ago, the Heat were 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 — their 41-41 record last season left them ninth in the east.
After their fifth successive victory, Miami are now tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference.
MCCOLLUM SPARKS BLAZERS
Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum had 27 points and seven assists in the team's 117-106 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have lost four of their past six games.
SIMMONS STRUGGLES AGAINST MAVS
Orlando Magic starting forward Jonathon Simmons had more fouls (four) than points (three) in a 114-99 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. He went into the game averaging 14.3 points.
AGE NO LIMIT FOR VINCE
He might be 40 years of age, but Sacramento Kings veteran Vince Carter is still going strong in the NBA.
Miami Heat 90-89 Toronto Raptors
Portland Trail Blazers 117-106 Oklahoma City Thunder
Los Angeles Lakers 99-86 Sacramento Kings
Dallas Mavericks 114-99 Orlando Magic
THUNDER AT TIMBERWOLVES
These two teams are trying to establish themselves in the Western Conference pecking order behind the Golden State Warriors, the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs at the top of the standings.
Jimmy Butler (21.5 ppg) and Karl-Anthony Towns (20.2) lead the way for the Minnesota Timberwolves against reigning MVP Westbrook.