Raps need break on Rose

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 5:28 PM ET

Jalen Rose insists he does not have a sense of deja vu, but the Raptors' leading scorer can't be looking forward to his visit with an X-ray machine today.

There are fears Mr. Clutch might become Mr. Can't Clutch for the second year in a row. Rose hurt his right (non-shooting) hand yesterday while performing fourth-quarter heroics in the Raptors' 108-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at the Air Canada Centre.

Rose, who couldn't have an X-ray yesterday because the machine at the ACC was broken, said he hyperextended his index and middle fingers while diving for a loose ball with the Raptors up by six in the dying seconds. He remembers all too well the night of Feb. 8, 2004, when he broke his left hand. That injury sent the Raptors, then 25-25, on a severe downward spiral, which included then-coach Kevin O'Neill breaking a lamp when he heard the news.

"It feels like I need an X-ray," Rose said. "It doesn't feel like last year. I don't think it's broken, but it definitely feels like I've got to get an X-ray to see exactly what it was."

While Rose was preaching optimism, there were whispers around the ACC that the injury may be more serious than the guard/forward was predicting. If that's the case, all the Raptors have accomplished in the past week will probably become a moot point.

The Raptors (24-32) tied a season-high with their third win in a row yesterday, thanks in large part to Rose. He scored 10 of the team's final 12 points yesterday, leading the Raptors back from a 102-98 deficit.

"When get a little older, you've got to watch diving on that floor," said Rose, top man for the Raptors with 26 points. "It gets a little harder the older you get.

"(Diving with) a six-point lead with four seconds to go, I guess I'm as dumb as I look," Rose added jokingly.

Rose had the sellout crowd of 19,800 on his side yet again, putting his hand to his ear like Hulk Hogan to request noise. He made a couple of foul shots, a tough runner and then an open jumper in succession to put the Raptors up 104-102 with 1:02 left, a lead they would not relinquish.

"Jalen is a good player," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who scored a game-high 31 points. "He has proven it throughout the league and when he gets hot, he really can get things going for them. He's very versatile and he did an excellent job."

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell also did fine work, putting top defender Morris Peterson on Bryant for most of the second half and holding him to 10 points. Mitchell had other players on Bryant for most of the first half, keeping Peterson out of foul trouble.

Donyell Marshall also played well, scoring 19 points off the bench. His big offensive rebound and ensuing foul shots put the Raptors up 106-102. Marshall then stole a pass to seal the win, a big one considering the Raptors begin a daunting four-game trip in San Antonio against the Spurs on Wednesday.

"It's a real different feeling (in the dressing room)," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said. "Three in a row will change it."

But so will an injury to Jalen Rose.


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