Raptors sweat out win

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:09 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell threw everything at Shaquille O'Neal last night except the team bus.

The last thing Mitchell needed was a damaged bus.

Hoping to find a way to stop the 7-foot-1, 325-pound Miami Heat centre, Mitchell sent out a bevy of big men on to the American Airlines Arena court -- starting centre Loren Woods, Donyell Marshall and rookie Rafael Araujo.

The Raptors also double-teamed Shaq at every opportunity.

And though O'Neal responded by collecting 34 points and 17 rebounds, the Raptors managed to pull together on defence and came away from Miami with a huge 94-92 victory, only the club's second road win of the season.

"The thing that was so gratifying about this win was no one gave us a chance. People were kind of laughing at us when we came down here," Mitchell said.

"They were laughing at us, cracking jokes. 'How are you going to guard Shaq? How are you going to guard Dwyane Wade?'

"We just went out and fought hard and battled."

Marshall, who had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench, including a huge offensive rebound and basket with 1:18 left, Woods and Araujo all tried valiantly, but just could not stop the monster centre, who demonstrated amazing quickness to go with his size and power.

O'Neal's point and rebound totals were the most by an opponent against Toronto this year.

He also went to the free throw line 13 times, nailing 10.

But solid defence and a hot hand by Jalen Rose, who led the Toronto offence with 24 points, including two free throws with 15.6 seconds on the clock to take the lead, gave the Raptors the victory. The team improved to 7-9 with five straight road games on the horizon.

"We held Shaq to 34 and 17," Rose joked. "Who's going to contain him? Our young guys did a good job of trying to make him work for every inch of the floor and we didn't allow Shaq to make other guys better."

After Rose sunk his frees, the Heat took possession on two occasions but missed a pair of 25-foot jump shots, by Eddie Jones and Wade, thanks in large part to the coverage by Vince Carter.

The Raptors had every reason last night to show up with their A game.

Rafer Alston and Woods both wanted to play well against their former team. On top of that, Mitchell put Carter on Wade, and Vinsanity played hard, although he picked up his fourth foul at with 6:25 left in the third quarter, having only scored three points and four assists to that point. Wade, the Heat's fine young point guard, finished the game with 22 points, four assists and nine rebounds.

The Raptors jumped ahead 48-42 at the half, the biggest lead at halftime this year on the road.

The Raptors are in Orlando tonight to face the Magic.


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