Raps' formula for success

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

HOUSTON -- The Raptors should offer loyal season tickets holders a free trip to a road game.

It just might convince restless fans to stay on board.

The Raps (6-20) notched their third road win in a row and fifth in their past six games, holding Tracy McGrady to just seven points in a convincing 94-81 win over the short-staffed Houston Rockets last night at the Toyota Center.

Afterward, coach Sam Mitchell made something of a plea to fans to remain positive at home in tough times.

"When we got down (in a win in Orlando over the Magic Monday), we're on the road so guys didn't feel that pressure of being booed by the crowd," he said. "We've got great fans and we just hope they understand we've got young guys. The thing about those guys is you've got to get behind them and keep supporting them because they're not going to quit."

Playing in a 30-team league in which only seven teams have a better road record than home record, the Raptors are 5-8 on the road and just 1-12 at home. The Raps, who remain last in the Atlantic Division but have the same number of wins as the New York Knicks, have won three road games in a row for the first time since February 2004. That's good news for a team with road games against the defending-champion San Antonio Spurs (tomorrow) and runner-up Detroit Pistons (Dec. 27) next on the agenda.

"We feel like it's us against the world on the road," Morris Peterson said. "If we make a mistake, we just go back on defence and do what we can do."

Peterson was the main man responsible for McGrady, but his teammates were quick to double-team the ex-Raptor and made good switches. With Houston having just nine healthy players and missing star centre Yao Ming, the Raptors keyed on McGrady, who was 2-of-11 from the field. The 81 points for Houston was a season-low for a Raptors opponent.

"I've got to give credit to my teammates," said Peterson, who scored 18 points. "I can't take all the credit. I definitely did take it as a challenge, but my teammates did a great job of stepping up. We tried to keep the ball out of his hands as much as possible and make him take tough shots."

Ex-Rocket and Houston resident Mike James, acquired in the pre-season deal that sent Rafer Alston to the Rockets, led the Raptors with 19 points, marking the first time in 17 games Chris Bosh (17 points) did not lead Toronto in scoring. Five Raptors scored in double figures for the second game in a row.

"I think our guys were near-perfect with what we were trying to do with our game plan," said Mitchell, who felt it was the Raptors' most complete game of the season. "They just followed it to a T."

Point guard Jose Calderon, who missed the previous two games with a bruised heel, and forward Charlie Villanueva, who missed one game with a calf injury, returned last night. However, Mitchell kept Calderon out of the starting lineup, opting to stick with Joey Graham as a starter. The Raptors put little-used centre Loren Woods on the inactive list.


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