Raps on rebound

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:05 PM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Improbable is not a strong enough word to describe the latest victory for the not-so-awful Raptors.

Try stunning.

A night after beating the host Atlanta Hawks 102-101 in the basement bowl, the Raptors came here to the swamp and knocked off the hated Vince Carter and his New Jersey Nets.

Playing without second-leading scorer Mike James (sore back), the Raptors (3-15) extended their winning streak to two whole games with a 95-82 victory over the inconsistent Nets (7-9) at Continental Airlines Arena.

After throwing away a 10-point third-quarter lead, the Raptors responded with a huge 8-0 run late in the fourth to break open an 80-80 tie. Rookie point guard Jose Calderon, who gets better every single day, started that rally with a drive to the hoop and Morris Peterson then sunk a clutch three-pointer.

Peterson, who scored 17 points in the first half, finished with 24. Chris Bosh, who continues to thrive near the basket, led the Raptors with 29 points and 13 rebounds.

To make the night even better for Raptors fans, Vince Carter had an off night. Carter, who was in foul trouble all night, caused flashbacks when he went down like a boxer who was socked in the head after he tripped over Rafael Araujo while going for a defensive rebound. He immediately clutched his right ankle and was down on the floor for several minutes before he was helped to the dressing room. Carter, who finished with 15 points, eventually returned.

The Raptors had to make a late change to their starting lineup, inserting Jalen Rose to replace James. With James out, little-used third-string point guard Darrick Martin was asked to play major minutes behind starter Calderon.

After arriving in New Jersey yesterday at 2:30 a.m., it seemed like the Raptors were due for one of those common brutal starts. After all, the Raptors entered last night 10-45 in the second half of back-to-back games the past four seasons. But they held their own in the first quarter, which ended with the score tied at 27-27. Rose caused Carter to draw his second foul midway through the first and VC had to take an early seat on the bench.

BAD NIGHT FOR CARTER

Carter made a brief return in the second quarter, only to notch his third foul on a Joey Graham drive, forcing him to ride the bench again. Without Carter, the Nets lacked their go-to guy on offence and the Raptors took advantage, taking the lead late in the third quarter and extending it to 56-50 at halftime. Peterson hit all six of his shots in the first half.

Oft-criticized centre Araujo, who doesn't seem to play well unless he's on the West Coast, must have approved the late 8 p.m., tip as he was a key part of the Raptors' second-quarter surge with good passing and timely scoring.

Charlie Villanueva, after playing on the perimeter in the first half, came to life in the third quarter with three consecutive baskets, giving the Raptors some momentum. The Raptors led 71-64 after three quarters.

The Raptors are back in Toronto for the next two days before completing their three-game road swing Tuesday in Washington against the Wizards.

REPORT CARD

B Offence: Hit the big shots when they needed them and made Chris Bosh their main man in crunch time.

B Defence: After an ugly start with poor switches, the Raptors made the Nets hit shots and work for baskets for much of the second half.


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