Win a buzz for Raptors

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

Relief and redemption emerged as themes on this afternoon when the Raptors finally put together a 48-minute stretch where they looked like a team that actually cared about winning. You couldn't say the same for yesterday's opponents -- the New Orleans Hornets, who, outside of Toronto native Jamaal Magloire, didn't care much about playing with heart or intensity.

The Raptors weren't complaining, though, not after their well-deserved 84-76 win snapped an ugly seven-game losing streak at the Air Canada Centre.

The Raptors had to regroup following a 109-103 loss to the Knicks on Friday when the New York pounded the Raptors on the glass and overcame a double-digit deficit.

Against a much more formidable frontline yesterday, the Raptors did not back down. While New Orleans outrebounded Toronto 48-46 in the game, most of the crucial boards -- be it offensive or defensive -- were controlled by the Raptors, whose win brought universal sighs of relief in improving their overall record to 27-36.

Just about every player who saw the floor did something for the Raptors, including recently signed veteran point guard Rod Strickland, who did a great job controlling tempo and not forcing his offence.

With starters Vince Carter, Donyell Marshall and Chris Bosh setting the tone, Strickland and Morris Peterson proved to be the catalysts for Toronto's second unit.

"I thought we did a great job finishing the game,'' Raptors coach Kevin O'Neill said. "Our guys did a good job staying together and executing down the stretch and that's how you win games.''

O'Neill was quick to point out that the Raptors, who shot better from three-point range (45.5%) than they did from the field (38.6%), were the beneficiaries of some lacklustre efforts by the Hornets, who dropped to 33-30.

All-star point guard Baron Davis began the game on the bench after missing a team meeting, while Jamal Mashburn scored nine first quarter points and was held scoreless for the rest of the game.

"I can't get mad at the coach,'' Davis said. "Coach (Tim Floyd) is going to coach his team the way he wants to coach it."

Floyd had Magloire, Darrell Armstrong, Stacey Augmon, Steve Smith and David West on the court to begin the fourth quarter. After being down by as many as 16 points, the Hornets' unlikely unit made it a six-point game.

That's when the Raptors showed poise and made plays at both ends of the floor to produce their win.

"It's a big win,'' Peterson said after the game in which he scored 17 points. "A win like this is big for our confidence."

Carter led the way with a game-high 26 points, which included a running 41-foot shot he released just before the expiration of the third quarter that gave the homeside a 69-54 lead.

Magloire led the Hornets with 23 points and hauled down a career-high 21 rebounds.


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