A benchmark rally for Raps

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:20 AM ET

The Raptors posted the greatest fourth-quarter comeback infranchise history yesterday by banishing their superstar to the bench.

As has been his habit many times this season, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell sat out Vince Carter in the fourth quarter as the home side rebounded from an 82-63 deficit after the third quarter to produce a dramatic 96-91 win over Tim Duncan and the powerful San Antonio Spurs at the Air Canada Centre.

The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the 5-6 Raptors and ended a six-game winning streak by the Spurs, 8-2. Toronto outscored San Antonio 33-9 in the fourth, as the Spurs shot a dismal 2-for-18.

Three bench players -- Lamond Murray, Morris Peterson and Milt Palacio -- along with starters Chris Bosh and Rafer Alston orchestrated the comeback in front of 17,264 fans.

Alston picked up nine points and five assists in the fourth, 20 and 11 overall. Murray was also huge, adding 13 points in the fourth and was spectacular on defence, starting with a steal on Duncan with 4:02 left, and then feeding the ball to Alston for a layup.

At the 1:14 mark, Murray had a huge block on a dunk attempt by the 6-foot-11 Duncan and then nailed a 19-foot jump shot with 14.6 seconds to put the Raptors ahead 94-90.

"Of course, it had to be the blocked shot," Murray said when asked for his highlight of the quarter. "I'm a small forward and he's the No. 1 power forward/centre in the game right now."

Bosh recorded his first double-double of the season with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Peterson had 16 points.

"Our guys, all year they haven't quit," Mitchell said. "Even on the long road trip, we still had a chance to win four out of the six games because they wouldn't quit. As long as we keep fighting and playing together, we'll have a chance."

Carter, still the subject of trade rumours, managed just four points, two rebounds, three steals and one assist in 24 minutes and was booed by the fans increasingly as the game progressed. Still, Mitchell said his reason for benching Carter had more to do with Murray, Peterson and Palacio earning their right to finish the game.

"I'm not benching guys. We put a group on the court to see if we can get some energy and those guys brought us back in the game," Mitchell said.

"We went to the bench and those guys came through."

Starting small forward Jalen Rose also sat out the fourth after he hurt his left thigh in the first half.


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