Fresh start

Rafer Alston during Raptors' practice at the ACC.   (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun)

Rafer Alston during Raptors' practice at the ACC. (Stan Behal/Toronto Sun)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Rafer Alston officially is out of Sam Mitchell's doghouse. The Raptors coach said yesterday that Alston will make his return to the starting lineup today when Toronto (20-27) plays host to the Dallas Mavericks (30-15) at the Air Canada Centre.

The fleet-footed point guard returned to the team as a backup for a 103-100 win over the Washington Wizards Friday after serving a two-game suspension for walking out of a practice last Saturday.

"I'm just happy to play," Alston said. "I was happy to come off the bench (Friday) and give the team some help and some energy.

"I've started most of the season (except for four games) and I'm accustomed to doing that this year. I just want to pick up where I left off (Friday night)."

If Alston does that, it would sure help the slow-starting Raptors, who overcame 19- and 22-point deficits the past two games for improbable victories over the Indiana Pacers and Wizards, respectively.

The latter game matched the biggest comeback in Raptors history. In the fourth quarter against Washington, Alston ran the team effectively at a fast pace and scored 11 of his 16 points.

"Most of us get a little down when we're not making shots we know we can make," Alston said. "If we can get some guys some easy buckets, get out on the run more and put some pressure on them and make them get into a track meet, (that would help the Raptors) ... get off to a better start."

Raptors forward Donyell Marshall sees eye-to-eye with Alston.

"If you look at the fourth quarter (Friday), something Sam has been preaching all year is just get out and run, and we were able to do that," Mitchell said. "We didn't run too many plays. We just played with basketball instinct."

Perhaps if the Raptors run teams into the ground, they won't remain in this come-from-behind pattern. After all, the best teams knock out an opponent when the opportunity exists early in the game.

"We can't keep (falling behind)," Marshall said. "Against the good teams, they're going to bury us. Luckily, I think the other teams the last two games maybe took us for granted and thought we were just going to give up."

Now that the secret is out about the Raptors' never-say-die mentality, they must figure out a way to deliver a more consistent overall effort.

"We talk about it, we work on it, we practice it," Mitchell said when asked about the poor starts. "Our guys understand that's not the way we want to play because you can't always come back from 20 (points down). We've just got to continue to try to get better."


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