Raps back at it

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

Never mind the awful starts. The Raptors clearly are a juggernaut after an opponent dominates the first half. For the second game in a row, the Raptors overcame a huge early deficit, fighting back for an emotional 103-100 win over the Washington Wizards before 15,546 last night at the Air Canada Centre.

The win, after the Raptors trailed by as many as 22 points, matched their biggest comeback in franchise history. They also were down by 22 in a 107-103 win over Washington April 19, 1996.

"I think the team doctor wants to see me about this ulcer that is slowly developing in my stomach," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, whose team overcame a 19-point deficit for a 98-97 road win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

"I think I said the same thing to them as in Indiana. There wasn't a need to be screaming and yelling. Our guys heard the boos. If I could figure out a way to bottle the second half, re-start the game and play like that for 48 minutes I would. But our guys don't quit."

While the Raptors deserve full marks for the comeback, they received some help from Wizards star point guard Gilbert Arenas. Referee Bob Delaney ejected Arenas after he fired a bounce pass at the official's knee midway through the third quarter. Arenas was booted out after he was slapped with a technical for yapping. At the time, the Wizards held a 74-59 lead.

Arenas torched the Raptors when he was playing, scoring all 21 of his points in the first half and making eight of 13 shots on the night.

"The ejection did spark our team, but I think it deflated theirs," Raptors forward Jalen Rose said. "I've got to send Gilbert a Christmas card because I think the way he was playing, if he would have been able stay out there, it would been tough for us to get back into the game."

Rose was instrumental in the comeback. He led the team with 26 points and gave the Raptors the lead, 99-98, for the first time since the opening basket when he sank a pair of free throws with 1:05 left. Donyell Marshall then drained a three-pointer to seal it.

Not to be forgotten was point guard Rafer Alston, who made a fine return after serving a two-game suspension for walking out of a practice on Saturday. He scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and brought some much-needed energy to the team.

"Everyone in that locker room knows we need Rafer," Mitchell said. "But we need him playing with enthusiasm and playing under control and playing with his emotions in check ... I'm proud of him. I know it was a tough week for him. It's tough when anyone takes your life and opens it up to scrutiny."


Videos

Photos