The Raptors are on track to go undefeated in 2005! Of course, a good bet would be that Toronto will lose a game here or there, but the Raptors did play like a team last night with a sense of purpose.
After losing three in a row on the road during the holidays, the Raptors opened the new year last night with a 105-94 victory over the Orlando Magic at the Air Canada Centre, the team's fourth consecutive win at home.
It goes without saying that any team with an 11-21 record has a long way to go in terms of contending for a playoff position, but the Raptors are hoping their strong play at home (9-4 overall) and the fact that the toughest, longest trips of the season are history will put them in position to make a charge.
"We weren't going to be denied tonight after what we've been through and how hard we worked," said forward Matt Bonner, who scored 11 points including seven in the fourth quarter.
Chris Bosh certainly would not be denied in front of 15,782 fans. The lanky power forward tied a career high with 25 points and recorded his team-leading eighth double-double by adding 12 rebounds.
Morris Peterson, who has been a starter since the Vince Carter traded, added 21 which was a season high.
"Chris has come a long way," Peterson said of his teammate. "People don't realize that he's only 20 years old and he's doing a lot of great things. If you look at guys like Kevin Garnett, who came into the league at his age, he's definitely right up there with them at their age, or better."
"I'm just real happy with my game right now," said Bosh, who went 7-for-7 from the free throw line, an area of his game where he has struggled. "I have my highs and my lows, but I'm still learning. It's all about learning."
The pinnacle of Bosh's night came with 3:08 left in the game when he scored on an off-balance jump shot while being fouled to put the Raptors up 101-87. He then nailed the foul, for his 25th point of the game.
The Raptors went ahead 34-23 in the first quarter on the strong play of Bosh and Peterson, both of whom had highlight-reel plays: Peterson a reverse layup as he crashed to the court and a huge slam by Bosh after he sold Magic forward Tony Battie on a fake shot. Bosh had 12 points and five rebounds in the quarter, while Peterson had 13 points. Just as the quarter ended, Peterson, driving, scored a finger roll basket while going down, was fouled by Mario Kasun and sunk the free for a three-pointer.
The home side had a 15-point lead heading into the final quarter, but the Magic climbed to within seven with just over eight minutes left. Shortly after a timeout, Peterson entered the game and nailed a three pointer for a 92-80 lead with 6:50 left.
The frustration boiled over in the fourth for Orlando as both Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley were slapped with technicals for arguing calls. Mobley, who wouldn't let up, was given a second and ejected by referee Bill Kennedy.