For Raptors, any win is meaningful

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:27 AM ET

How bad can they be?

People wonder that about the Raptors, they really do.

They see a star in Chris Bosh and a guard of some promise in Jose Calderon.

Charlie Villanueva looks to have a solid offensive game for a rookie.

Morris Peterson has morphed into a front-liner and a dependable player on the road.

They see an able veteran in Jalen Rose and figure coach Sam Mitchell knows what he's doing.

It's just the tiny win total that tends to freeze you and the four consecutive seasons without a playoff team and the lousy home record.

People think there is more. There is no other explanation for 18,000 people in the Air Canada Centre last night save for the fact that many of them can't stand their families.

"If Chris (Bosh) gets the ball, we have a chance to beat anybody," Mitchell was saying last night after the Raps beat Atlanta 108-102.

"We've got people like Mo (Peterson) and Mike (James) who can spot up and make some shots," Mitchell said.

Bosh was limited to just five field goals and 15 points but James hit for 28 and Peterson had 26.

Based on their win last night, the Raptors legitimately can stake their place in the basketball universe.

The Raptors now have seven wins -- as many as the Hawks, and as many as the New York Knicks. The Raptors are really lousy, but they are better than the Hawks. In fact, they may be better than the Knicks and the Portland Trail Blazers too.

For their part, the Hawks aren't much of a measuring stick. They gave the ball away 20 times last night, which took some doing.

The Hawks are a green collection built around Al Harrington with a collection of role players headed by Tyronn Lue and youngish talents Salim Stoudamire and Zaza Pachulia. Like the Raptors, the Hawks are built to lose.

A snapshot: With 40 seconds remaining in the game the Hawks, down by four points, inbounded the ball. An easy pass hit Harrington in the hands and skidded out of bounds. If you can't make a pass at crunch time, you will find scoring even harder.

So what does a win over one of the worst teams in the league mean?

It means a nice milestone for the genial Peterson, who now holds the team's record for games played with 418.

For his part, Peterson thinks there is something here.

"We have a team that can potentially do some damage and be a playoff team," Peterson said. "Right now, we're not a playoff team, I definitely see the talent. We got a lot of young guys who can play. It's just a matter of them learning how to play the right way. They need to do the little things.

So, are the Raptors the team that overcame an eight-point fourth-quarter deficit with impunity last night? Or does the calibre of their opponent tell it all?

"When you look up at the schedule, all you look at is the win total," Rose said. "When you really break it down, you're going to say two of their seven wins are against the Hawks."

In the end, it probably all means that down the road, the Raptors will place in the bottom three of the league. Barring a fluke in the bounce of the ping-pong balls, they will get a shot at Texas' LaMarcus Aldridge, UConn star Rudy Gay or Gonzaga's Adam Morrison.

But it is Dec. 29, and the Raptors have won at home exactly twice.

"We weren't just looking at the fact that we needed a win. We needed a win against anybody," said James. "And that's it."

They got it. For what it's worth.


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