The terrific triumvirate of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh invaded the Air Canada Centre on Friday – the leading lights of a tough Miami Heat squad bent on bringing another NBA championship to South Beach.
Talk to Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra and he would name centre Joel Anthony, an unsung member of the starting unit who hails from Montreal, as another key component to the squad's title dreams.
Anthony had averaged, heading into Friday's contest against the Toronto Raptors, only 3.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
Hardly earth-rattling stats. But Anthony does most of the dirty work on a team more known for it's rim-rattling offensive ways – setting the screens and imposing his large frame under the basket at both ends to help his more well-known teammates better room to roam.
“He's invaluable to our defence,” Spoelstra said before the Heat (37-13) outdueled the Raptors 113-101 in front of the fourth capacity gathering of the season at the ACC. “When he was out a game earlier, you could see how much we missed him.
“All the things that he does, we value. And probably, to be quite frank, might not find value on other teams.”
Spoelstra explained Anthony is anything but an offensive juggernaut. But his offence is not key on a team with plenty of scorers.
“But he helps our offence,” the coach said. “He's our best screener, he plays with energy, he gets up the court, he helps our spacing. He's physical.
“In terms of our team defence, I don't know if there's five better centres in this league.”
There was very little in the way of defensive play Friday.
Both teams shot more than 50 per cent and the score was 83-83 heading into the final frame.
The Raptors (17-35) utilized a zone defence that threw a monkey wrench into the Miami attack but could not maintain the intensity into the fourth quarter.
Three consecutive turnovers by James Johnson helped create some breathing room for the Heat. A three-point shot from Wade followed by a short runner from the paint by the point guard helped lift Miami into 99-91 lead with more than five minutes left.
Wade would lead all scorers with 30 points, while also contributing six assists and six rebounds.
The assault continued with a couple of buckets from Bosh, the former Raptors star who was jeered at every moment but with little affect.
On the second basket, Bosh accepted a laser feed from James under the basket, hesitated a moment to shake off a defender, and then rose for a jam that extended Miami's lead to 103-93.
Bosh would finish with 30 points and eight rebounds, while James did his part with 26 points and nine assists.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 28 points, while Andrea Bargnani added 27 to go with just one rebound for the seven-footer. Guard Jose Calderon piled up 16 assists.
The 6-foot-9, 245-pound Anthony, who had just one rebound and no points in 27 minutes 25 seconds Friday, has worked hard to get where he is.
Anthony attended Dawson College in Montreal and eventually moved on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, from which he went undrafted.
The Heat signed him to a one-year contract in 2007. He made the team out of training camp and has been a mainstay since.
This season, Anthony moved into the starting lineup for the first time, although the soft-spoken 29-year-old said it hasn't affected what he has to do on the court.
“I think I'm able to complement the other starters,” Anthony said. “We have some other guys who are able to get their own shots and, obviously, do a lot of great things with the basketball.
“I'm just playing my role.”
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