VanVleet scores career-best 36, Raptors top Heat 107-103

LAKE BUENA VISTA (AP) — Fred VanVleet made another case for a big payday later this year.

VanVleet scored a career-high 36 points and made seven three-pointers, and the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors added to their strong restart with a 107-103 victory over the Miami Heat yesterday.

VanVleet, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, finished seven of 12 from beyond the three-point arc and was a perfect 13 of 13 from the foul line, topping his 34-point total against the Pelicans last December.

The 26-year-old VanVleet is in the midst of a two-year, USD18 million contract, but figures to cash in this coming offseason after helping the Raptors win a championship and then following that up with another strong season in which he’s averaging 17.5 points and 6.7 rebounds.

Pascal Siakam added 22 points and Kyle Lowry had 14 points and eight rebounds for the Raptors, who improved to 2-0 in the bubble. Toronto resumed its season by beating the Lakers and remains in second place in the Eastern Conference.

Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet shoots as Miami Heat’s Goran Dragic tries to draw the offensive foul during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Lake Buena Vista. PHOTO: AP

Goran Dragic had 25 points for the Heat.

Miami beat Toronto twice this season, but the Raptors avoided the season sweep behind VanVleet, who poured in deep 3s and repeatedly found his way to the foul line in the third quarter with strong drives.

The Raptors led by 17 midway through the third quarter before the Heat pulled ahead on Dragic’s corner three with 10:11 remaining in the game. The Raptors regained command when Serge Ibaka, who had 15 points, added two dunks on back-to-back possessions.

Still, Miami wouldn’t go away.

Jae Crowder hit a three and Dragic drew a charge on VanVleet to give the Heat a chance. Dragic scored on a drive on the ensuing possession and drew a foul, but missed the potential game-tying free throw with 40 seconds left — Miami’s first miss in 16 attempts.

The Heat still had a chance when Lowry missed a reverse layup.

But two late turnovers cost the Heat a chance to win. Jimmy Butler couldn’t handle a pass from Dragic on a backdoor cut and the ball scooted out of bounds with 17,.4 seconds left. Then Butler turned it over after a side inbounds play when his pass to Dragic was deflected by VanVleet.

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra refused to blame rust from the time off as a reason for the mistakes, saying “that’s basketball.”

“You have the ball in those two guys’ hands and you live with the results,” Spoelstra said. “You hear it can be a make-or-miss league, but it can be something like that as well.”

Olynyk added 17 points and Crowder and Butler each had 16 for Miami, which fell to 1-1 since the restart.