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stood from his courtside seat, his arms over his head

TORONTO - Drake stood from his courtside seat, his arms over his head motioning for the sellout crowd to get on their feet as the final buzzer sounded and his iconic anthem, "Started From The Bottom" blared over the Air Canada Centre loudspeakers. Robert Hagg Jersey . The Raptors global ambassador was the guest of honour on Saturday but - as he explained to the hoard of media that assembled in front of him before the game - he did not want the evening to be about him, although the night was in fact titled Drake Night. It could have been and very nearly turned out to be a sideshow. The Toronto-born recording artist handed out free shoes while his DJ entertained a captivated audience of 19,800 at halftime. Moments later the buzz that had filled the arena abruptly disappeared as the Raptors came out flat in the third quarter, trailing by as many as 10 to the division-rival Brooklyn Nets, winners of their previous five contests. In the end, Drake asked for noise and the ACC faithful obliged, saluting the team and its ambassador. The Raptors had earned it, putting on a show of their own and sending their fans home with more than just a black and gold OVO T-shirt. "I think we just got a spark there," coach Dwane Casey said after the Raptors closed out the game on a 40-18 run to defeat the Nets 96-80. "I thought our guys showed mental toughness and won a slug-out game, which I dont know if we could have won a couple months ago, no less last year. [Its] a testament to our guys mental growth and mental toughness to win a game like that." "We stayed patient," said DeMar DeRozan, who led all scorers with 26 to go along with seven rebounds and a team-high five assists. "We knew they were going to make a run, especially in the second half and we understood that. We stayed disciplined, understood we had to get stops, rebound the ball and push it." DeRozan scored the last seven points of the third and first two of the fourth as the Raptors began to take advantage of a veteran Nets team that had played a double overtime game against the defending champions a night earlier. Toronto held the visitors without a point for over seven minutes of game time and without a field goal for over nine minutes during a 22-1 run midway through the final frame. Despite their 41 per cent field goal shooting and just 16 assists, the Raptors were able to get out in transition - besting the Nets 13-6 on the break - and take advantage of Kevin Garnetts absence on the boards (the 37-year-old was rested on the second night of back-to-back). As a team the Raptors grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, five of them from Patrick Patterson, who continued to be a game-changer off Torontos bench. The Raptors outscored Brooklyn by 40 with Patterson on the floor Saturday. He finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds while fellow reserve John Salmons added 13, connecting on all five of his shots. The Nets and their rookie head coach Jason Kidd were struggling when they visited Toronto in late November, having lost five in a row before narrowly defeating the Raptors. This time around, they came to town riding a five-game winning streak, which included impressive victories over the Heat, Warriors and Thunder. Without Garnett, Deron Williams (nursing an ankle injury) and Brook Lopez (out for the season after foot surgery) in the lineup on the second night of a grueling back-to-back, Toronto seized another opportunity during this crucial stretch against sub-.500 teams. The Raptors have now won seven of their past nine contests overall and five of their last six at home, pulling within one-game of third place Atlanta in the Eastern Conference standings. With some assistance from Drake, the in-arena atmosphere reflected the teams recent success on Saturday and did not go unnoticed by those in the locker room. "I definitely think (Drake) succeeded," Amir Johnson said. "He got fans hyped, they had some sweet t-shirts in the crowd, everybodys screaming, every play everybody seemed like they were standing up cheering for us and thats what we need from our fans." "The atmosphere was great, I hope we can continue having that. Weve got to keep winning though." Accompanied by an entourage that included Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri before the game, Drake showed off his suit jacket, lined with a retro Vince Carter jersey. He also pitched in during the pre-game introductions, announcing the Raptors starters with his own unique twist. "Tonights not really about me, despite the title of the night," he said. "I think its just more about the momentum in the city, bringing the city together, how well these guys have been playing, honouring this squad that is really finding [itself], finding stability with each other and the revamp of this team." Given the result, its safe to say his mission was accomplished. Carter Hart Jersey . The question all fans want to know heading into this light heavyweight affair is will Rua display his true potential. Working with UFC welterweight fighter Demian Maias team in Sao Paulo Brazil and having training partners such as fellow UFC stand outs Fabio Maldonado and Daniel Sarafian, the 32-year old feels very well prepared for Friday nights encounter. Claude Giroux Flyers Jersey . -- Ben Brust scored 19 points to lead six Wisconsin players in double figures as the No.LOS ANGELES -- The Miami Heat played the final minutes the way championship teams are supposed to. The Los Angeles Clippers are still perfecting the art of closing out games against the elite teams. LeBron James had 31 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds, Ray Allen hit a clinching three-pointer in the final minute, and the Heat snapped a five-game road losing streak against the stubborn Clippers with a 116-112 victory on Wednesday night. Allen had 15 points off the bench for the two-time defending NBA champions, who began a six-game road trip that will be interrupted four games in by the All-Star break. Dwyane Wade, one of seven Miami players scoring in double figures, had 14 points and eight assists in his 700th regular-season game. The Heat had lost 10 of their previous 12 road games against the Clippers, and hadnt beaten them at Staples Center since Dec. 9, 2007. Los Angeles, coming off Mondays stinging 116-115 loss at Denver on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by ex-Clipper Randy Foye, got a season-high 43 points and 13 rebounds from Blake Griffin and 31 points from Jamal Crawford. DeAndre Jordan extended his franchise record of consecutive double-digit rebound performances to 29 games with 16 boards and 16 points. The Pacific Division champions are 11-6 since Chris Paul went down with a separated right shoulder on Jan. 3 at Dallas. With Darren Collison and Crawford replacing Paul and J.J. Redick (sore right hip) in the starting lineup, the Clippers bench produced only two points -- a 20-foot jumper by Jared Dudley with 3:17 left in the first quarter -- until Willie Green hit a pair of free throws to pull Los Angeles within 91-84 with 9:51 to play. Allen, who holds the NBA record for career three-pointers, converted a four-point play after Green fouled him behind the arc. That extended Miamis lead to 99-87 with 8:07 remaining. His second three, a rainbow from the left corner, made it 112-107 with 42.4 seconds to go. "Thats when the talent kicks in," James said. "The play was broken down a little bit, but D-Wade made a heck of a play by getting into the paint, and Ray just kept moving into his favourite spot -- one of those corners. D-Wade found him with a great pass, and Ray nailed it." Allen, in his 18th NBA season, played in his 1,271st regular-season game and overtook John Havlicek for 19th place all-time. "Hes a pro and he takes care of himself. Hes in just phenomenal shape, and he can run forever," said Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who had Allen for five seasons with the Celtics. "Whhat impressed me the most when we were in Boston was his professionalism and his ability to make big shots. James Van Riemsdyk Jersey. Ray could go 0 for 20, or 20 for 20, and the next day hed be the first guy in the gym, shooting all of his shots from his exact spots at the exact speed. Ray lives that." The Clippers, who held Miami to just two field goals over the first 7:47 of the fourth quarter, narrowed the gap to 99-95 with a 10-0 run capped by Griffins tip-in with 5:15 left. But James responded with a three-pointer and a layup 53 seconds apart. "Obviously weve had our battles with Doc, being in the Eastern Conference for so long, so we know how well his team is going to be prepared," James said. "I think it was just our mental toughness, especially in the third quarter when they made their run. We just stayed composed and found a way to get a win. We made stops and executed offensively." The Heat opened the third quarter with an 11-5 run that extended their seven-point halftime lead to 73-60. Wade set up an alley-oop dunk by James, and Mario Chalmers hit a three-pointer from in front of the Clippers bench to cap the rally with 8:48 left in the period. Chalmers basket put all of Miamis starters in double-figure scoring. Griffin led all scorers in the first half with 22 points and Crawford added 18, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter. But the Heat led 62-55 at intermission after shooting 57 per cent. Miamis ball movement was superb from the outset, recording assists on all but one of its first 18 field goals and building a 43-24 lead with 9:44 left in the second quarter. The Heat had 33 assists on 41 field goals overall. "We pride ourselves on moving the ball, and we know that makes it easier for all of us," James said. "We keep everyone in a rhythm when were passing the ball and sharing the ball. Tonight we had some turnovers, including myself. I mean, I was the main culprit (with seven), and Ive got to be more conscious of that and not turn the ball over so much." NOTES: James was called for a reach-in foul against Griffin with 3:17 left in the third quarter, his first of the game, and was assessed a technical foul by referee Bill Kennedy for complaining about it with Miami leading 81-69. ... The Clippers began a five-game homestand that includes four opponents that entered Wednesday with a combined 126-62 record -- Portland and division leaders Miami, Toronto and San Antonio. ... Miami improved to 8-2 against teams that currently lead their division. The Clippers are 3-6 in that department. ' ' ' 



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