MoPete rises up

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:22 AM ET

SAN ANTONIO -- Morris Peterson has found a cure for homesickness.

The Raptors swingman, who was a lost soul away from Toronto last year, has turned it up more than a few notches on the road this season at both ends of the floor.

In fact, like his team as a whole, Peterson is a far better player outside of the unfriendly confines of the Air Canada Centre. He is shooting 45.8% from the field and averaging 15.4 points on the road this season as compared to 38.8% and 11.5 at home.

Last season, he shot 37.1% and averaged 10 points on the road as compared to 46% and 15.1 at home.

"It's hard work and I got tired of people trying to point out I couldn't play on the road," Peterson said when asked to explain the dramatic turnaround. "The thing I try to do is compete every night. Whether my shot is going on or off, there are other parts of my game I feel are strong."

One part is defence, where Peterson has emerged as a team leader. He was the primary defender on Tracy McGrady Wednesday when the Houston Rockets star scored just seven points.

Often asked to guard one of the opponent's better players, Peterson feels he has come a long way on defence.

"I think it's night and day," Peterson said after a light practice at a local university yesterday. "The first couple of years in the league, I wasn't known as a defensive stopper but I was hungry to do it. Every year, I've gotten better."

He'll have a close look at one of the league's premier defenders -- Bruce Bowen -- tonight when the Raptors attempt to improve to 3-0 on their four-game road swing with a game against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs. The daunting trip concludes Tuesday against the runner-up Detroit Pistons, another sound defensive club.

"It's a good time (to face the Spurs and Pistons)," Peterson said. "We understand these are the NBA champions and NBA finalists. We're going to do whatever we can. We're going to try to go into the game with some momentum. It's just a matter of starting on the defensive end and getting some stops."

Peterson, meanwhile, will pass Alvin Williams for first on the Raptors' career game list Wednesday (418 games) when the Atlanta Hawks come to the Air Canada Centre.

Coach Sam Mitchell has a simple reason for Mo Pete's success.

"Ben Hogan said a long time ago, 'The harder I work, the luckier I get,' " Mitchell said.

"The harder you play, the luckier you get and better things are going to happen. Good things don't happen to people that sit at home and wish for them. Mo comes to practice and works hard and play hard."


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