By Frank Pingue
TORONTO (Reuters) - Former favorite Chris Bosh made light of a hostile reception from the fans that used to adore him on his first visit to Toronto since joining the Miami Heat, helping his new team record a 103-95 road victory on Wednesday.
Bosh was vilified by a packed Air Canada Center the moment he stepped on the court during the pre-game introductions and each time he touched the ball thereafter.
The forward, however, was unaffected by his negative treatment, scoring 25 points and grabbing six rebounds as the Heat resisted a late rally to escape with a win and a share of first place in the NBA's Eastern Conference.
"We've been getting booed and people have been saying all kinds of things in all kinds of ways everywhere and we use that for motivation," Bosh told reporters after the game.
"So when people go talking at the mouth or saying ignorant and crazy stuff we love it. It helps us and it motivates us."
While the Heat's roster also boasts All-Stars LeBron James (23 points) and Dwyane Wade (28 points), the game was the most anticipated of the season for Toronto fans as it was their first look at Bosh since the former face of the franchise left via free agency last year.
Bosh did not go on national TV to announce his free-agency plans like James had, but his decision to leave the Raptors still stung many Toronto supporters.
Fans brought many signs including ones that read "Miami Cheat," "Show Toronto Who's Bosh," "King's Jester" and "Two and a Half Men" with a picture of James, Wade and Bosh.
But Bosh was well prepared for his return to Toronto after witnessing how James was received in December when he made a much-anticipated return to Cleveland, the city he spurned to join the Heat.
"Fans are passionate. They believe that you should live your life and your career through them and when you don't do that they automatically turn," James told reporters.
Bosh, drafted fourth overall by the Raptors in 2003, played seven seasons in Toronto and is the franchise's all-time leader in points, total rebounds, free throws, blocks, minutes and games started.
The Raptors (15-41) are now one loss away from matching last season's total with 26 games remaining, while the Heat (41-15) are looming as title contenders though are locked in a battle with Boston for first place in the Eastern Conference.
As Bosh left the court after the game he held his arms in the air and blew kisses to the crowd, drawing a mix of boos and applause from the spectators who remained.
"I'm glad to get it over with," Bosh added. "The suspense was killer. You just want to get out there and play basketball."
(Editing by John O'Brien)