The Raptors are capable of staging a glorious comeback against the NBA's worst team at home.
Check that. The Raptors clearly can wipe out a huge deficit when a horrible opponent loses its best player to injury.
If nothing else, that's what the Raptors proved when they rallied for a 102-99 win over the New Orleans Hornets before 14,422 at the Air Canada Centre yesterday.
Truly awful for a good 40 minutes, the Raptors (15-23) eventually erased the 5-31 Hornets' 16-point third-quarter lead, taking control on two huge late blocks by Chris Bosh.
The Raptors surge came after effective Hornets point guard Baron Davis limped off the court with what is believed to be an Achilles injury in the third quarter.
"The fans kind of got on us and we deserved it with the way we played in the first half," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "Our guys have just got to understand we're not good enough and our record doesn't dictate we can take teams lightly ... (But) to our guys' credit, they fought and played hard and gave that extra effort on defence."
Especially Bosh, who swatted away two shots from red-hot Lee Nailon. The first block, on a Nailon drive, sent the Raptors on the run the other way, leading to a Jalen Rose basket that cut the Hornets lead to 95-94. After Rafer Alston made a couple of free throws to put the Raptors up 96-95, Bosh rejected a Nailon jumper and Toronto held the lead the rest of the way.
"That was the best thing I did all game," said Bosh, who recorded his seventh consecutive double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds. "If I don't block Lee's shots, we're probably down five (or) three points down the stretch."
Nailon scored a career-high 32 points for the Hornets. Morris Peterson led the Raptors with 25 points, was a key contributor on fourth-quarter defensive stands and had his first double-double of the season (10 rebounds), while Jalen Rose also played well in the fourth, finishing with 19 points.
Without Davis (who had a double-double in the first half alone), the Hornets turned to Dan Dickau at the point and he wasn't nearly as consistent. Like the Raptors on the road (Toronto is 2-18 away from the ACC), the Hornets are brutal in opposing buildings (2-19). They also have a habit of settling for too many three-pointers, including 28 yesterday.
"We didn't play very smart offensively," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Either we're not listening or we're not bright enough to understand what I'm saying."
Mitchell -- who played his entire bench, including little-used Loren Woods to replace a lost Rafael Araujo -- watched noted stars such as J.R. Smith and Chris Andersen convert alley-oops in the first half. Combine that with more poor shooting by Alston (until he made a key late drive) and no points and four fouls from starting forward Eric Williams and it's easy to see why the Raptors were ripe for the picking.
In the end, however, all that matters is that the Raptors won for the eighth time in their past nine home games.
"I thought everybody did a great job in the second half," Peterson said. "We responded. I think that really shows the character of this team."
The Raptors face the Timberwolves tonight. Toronto never has won in Minnesota.