Party time in Indy

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- Conseco Fieldhouse felt more like a morgue last night as the Raptors came back in dramatic fashion to bury the Indiana Pacers.

On a night when double-doubles were all the rage, the Raptors looked dead in the water for most of the game and trailed by as much as 16 late in the third quarter.

But led by the inspired play of guard Mike James, who recorded only the second double-double of his career, with 19 points and 10 assists, the Raptors stormed back in the fourth quarter to record a shocking 99-97 victory. It was the biggest comeback of the season for the ever-improving Raptors, who finish the month of December with a 7-7 record and are 8-22 overall.

"I'm proud of my guys," head coach Sam Mitchell said. "We were pushing each other to do the right thing and pushing each other to be in the right place, and talking on defence and demanding that each guy be accountable for where he's supposed to be.

"In that third quarter when they went up 16, we called a time out and before I could get to the huddle, the guys had said the things that had to be said," he added.

James, who had 14 in the fourth quarter, scored on a driving layup with 1:37 remaining to give the Raptors their first lead of the game, 95-93, and then scored on a running jump shot to put Toronto ahead 97-93. Morris Peterson then intercepted a Stephen Jackson pass and ran the court for a dunk and the six-point lead with 41 seconds left. Jackson nailed three consecutive free throws to bring the host club to within three with 28 seconds on the clock. But with 1.4 left, Pacers guard Sarunas Jasikevicius threw the ball in from the sideline right to Peterson to seal the deal.

The Raptors' two young stars, Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva, stepped up. Bosh earned his 15th double-double of the season with 22 points and 12 boards while Villanueva had 25 points off the bench and 10 rebounds.

"This can be a good starting point for us," James said. "We have to take this and run with it."

Pacers star Jermaine O'Neal was touch and go as to whether he would play after missing his team's past two practices with a sore lower back. O'Neal sucked it up, however, and had a big game for Indiana, recording 20 points with eight rebounds for the Pacers (15-12), who have been without Ron Artest for the past nine games. Indiana placed the volatile swingman on the inactive list after he demanded a trade.

The injury bug took a bite out of the Raptors backcourt. Starting shooting guard Joey Graham was forced to leave the game in the first quarter with a left knee strain. Point guard Jose Calderon was put on the inactive list prior to the game because of a sore right foot.

REPORT CARD

B- Offence: Kept Indiana to 42% shooting from the floor and actually out-rebounded the Pacers 44-43.

B- Defence: Four Raptors scored in double figures and Toronto shot an impressive 48% from the field.


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