Nesterovic leads Raptors to win over HeatApr 15, 2008 - 3:45 AM By Brian Herman PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
TORONTO (Ticker) -- The Toronto Raptors locked up the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference on Monday, taking care of business in their home finale.
Rasho Nesterovic continued his late-season surge, scoring 20 points to power the Raptors to a 91-75 victory over the Miami Heat.
Toronto (41-40) secured the sixth spot and a first-round playoff series with the third-seeded Orlando Magic following the Philadelphia 76ers' loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night. The Cavaliers pulled off a controversial last-second win.
"It's going to be a lot of fun," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said about playing Orlando. "Dwight (Howard) is a good friend of mine, but he is one of the best competitors (we) have in this league."
While the Raptors are just 1-2 vs. third-seeded Orlando (50-30), they figure to match up much better with the Magic than they do against second-seeded Detroit (57-23), which has made it to at least the Eastern Conference finals in each of the past five seasons and has defeated Toronto in three of four meetings this season.
"We've had some success against them (Orlando) and Chris is a tough matchup for them," Raptors guard T.J. Ford said. "We're going to have to play some good team basketball to beat them because they are a very good team."
Although Toronto had beaten Miami by an average of 33 points in their three previous victories, it had to work hard all night against a Heat team ravaged by injuries. Miami held the lead through much of the first 30 minutes.
"They started off with high intensity and played hard, you have to give them credit," Raptors swingman Anthony Parker said.
Toronto tied it on several occasions in the third quarter until a 3-pointer from Parker gave the Raptors the lead for good at 60-59 with 4:26 left.
That shot started a quarter-ending 13-5 run that left Toronto ahead 70-64 through three quarters.
Nesterovic, who has scored in double figures in 17 straight games, opened the fourth quarter with a basket as Toronto scored the first four points of the final quarter to open up a 74-64 advantage.
"Rasho had three 20-point games in the second half of the season," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "He's been playing great for us."
"Rasho's been playing great all year and has especially picked it up lately," Bosh said. "He knows what he is good at and when his right hook is falling like it did tonight, he is mean."
Miami answered back to get within five points at 74-69 on a Mark Blount's 3-pointer, but Jason Kapono squashed that rally with back-to-back jumpers at the six-minute mark, and Nesterovic capped an 11-0 run to give Toronto a 85-69 lead.
"Tonight, we got the job done," Bosh said. "They hit some shots early but we were aware that they played last night so we were patient and kept playing defense and were able to close out the game."
Bosh finished with 15 points for the Raptors, who have won three of their last four contests.
Rookie Daequan Cook finished with 22 points while Chris Quinn added 14 and six assists for the Heat, who close their forgettable regular season with a home game against Atlanta on Wednesday.
TORONTO 91 FINAL
Apr 14 9:11 PM
TORONTO 70 END, 3RD QTR
Apr 14 8:44 PM
TORONTO 43 HALFTIME
Apr 14 8:04 PM
TORONTO 25 END, 1ST QTR
Apr 14 7:36 PM
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