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  Sat, December 6, 2003


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Raps go forth in the fourth

By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

The third quarter was five minutes old and the coach was ticked. If you looked real close, you could see wisps of steam belching out of his ears. It looked like Mount O'Neill was about to erupt. "Are we gonna play or what?" barked Kevin O'Neill to everyone and no one as his Raptors turned the ball over for about the umpteenth time against the Atlanta Hawks.

In the end, he got his answer -- yes, when it really counted.

A gritty, determined and unselfish fourth quarter performance took the edge off a generally ratty game that threatened for awhile to take some of the shine off the recent trade that has buoyed Toronto to three consecutive wins.

In the end, the Raptors pulled it out, 92-87, turning it on when needed.

"When you start out the way we did, it's too easy," said O'Neill, after watching his team threaten to run away on the Hawks in the first quarter, scoring 28 points. "You fall into the trap of 'Let's bury these guys' but it never works like that."

A FORCE

Atlanta rallied for a one-point lead at the half and led by two points going into the fourth.

Down the stretch Vince Carter was, as usual, an irresistible force. He had gotten into early foul trouble and played only 16 minutes through three quarters but he came off the bench with fire in his eyes in the fourth.

But as good as Carter was, just as impressive was the work of rookie Chris Bosh, who is coming of age far more quickly than anyone could have expected.

He would finish with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists in a team-leading 42 minutes, but this was not about numbers.

It was about poise and confidence and an ability to deliver in the clutch. For example, with 1:25 left in the game and Toronto down 82-81, Bosh went up strong to snatch a crucial offensive rebound and in one motion, kicked it back outside to Donyell Marshall.

Marshall calmly drained the three-pointer to give Toronto the lead.

"Chris Bosh getting that rebound and then the three was a big play," Atlanta coach Terry Stotts said.

In the final 40 seconds, the Raptors made six consecutive foul shots -- four by Jalen Rose and two by Carter -- to close the deal to win by five.

Once again, Rose looked as if he had been studying O'Neill's offence for years, absolutely comfortable working the point, distributing the ball and making big shots.

He and Carter have meshed remarkably well during his first three games here, creating an immediate relationship that has blossomed because of mutual unselfishness.

"I was hoping Jalen would play this way as he went on, but to run the club like he did tonight, rebound the ball, dish out 10 assists and make four back-breaker free throws down the stretch, that's what you want your point guard to do," O'Neill said.

Carter accepts that the double-team is going to come his way and relishes it, because he knows somebody is always going to be wide open. He and Rose took turns finding each other in the fourth as Carter nailed 12 of his 22 points and Rose eight of his 22.

"I said 'Let me have the ball' " Carter said. "I knew that would draw the double team and things would open up somewhere."

If there is a statistic that jumps off the scoresheet it is the 24 Toronto assists, including 10 by Rose, who came within two rebounds of a triple-double.

The high assists simply reinforce the kind of high-energy ball-movement that has characterized Toronto's play these past three games.

LACKLUSTRE

What allowed this game to remain close was a combination of lacklustre Toronto shooting through the middle portion of the game. After nailing 17 three-pointers on Wednesday against Boston, Toronto went 0-for-9 from outside until Alvin Williams finally broke the goose-egg three minutes into the fourth.

And then, yeah, they decided to play.









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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