The comeback kids

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

ATLANTA -- All of a sudden, the Toronto Raptors are masters of crunch time.

For the third game in a row, the Raptors trailed in the fourth quarter and for the third game in a row they came out on top.

The Raptors (9-22) outscored the woeful Atlanta Hawks 35-17 in the fourth to record a 108-97 victory in the third basement bowl, putting the Raptors on a season-high three-game winning streak. The Raptors have won three of their nine games this season against the league-worst Hawks (7-22).

"It's a growth process," said Raptors star forward Chris Bosh, who hauled in 11 of his 12 rebounds in the second half. "We had been there so many times. The main thing we have to do now is bring that intensity to the whole game. Stop digging ourselves a hole."

The Raptors, during their three-game win streak, have outscored opponents by an average of 11.7 points in the fourth quarter.

Down by as many as 11 in the third quarter, the Raptors roared back late in the fourth with an unlikely fivesome featuring third-string point guard Darrick Martin and starting point guard Mike James, a combination coach Sam Mitchell said he wouldn't use together earlier in the day.

Martin, who had hit two three-pointers all season before last night and was not even close to being in a groove most of the game, nailed two big threes in the fourth. His first pulled the Raptors within one and his second was the dagger, putting the Raptors up 103-97 with 53.4 seconds left. Morris Peterson started a game-ending 11-0 run with 1:55 left when he drained a three, giving the Raptors the lead for good -- 100-97.

"I've got to take all the open looks," said Martin, who is being asked to play significant minutes with Jose Calderon (foot) hurt. "You can't be bashful playing this game. You have to have a short memory. You have to step up and make plays when you need to."

Mitchell appreciated Martin's effort. He said he put Martin in at the end to give James a break from his point-guard duties and to free him up for shots.

"I went from ready to kill Darrick when he drove to the hole and shot an airball to loving him when he made those two threes," Mitchell said.

The Raptors, who treated defence as a joke for most of the first three quarters, made six of seven three-point attempts in the fourth quarter.

James led the way for the Raptors with 28 points, while Bosh had 27 points and 12 rebounds for another double-double.

The Hawks helped the Raptors out a whole bunch, turning the ball over seven times in the fourth quarter and 18 times for the game. Five Hawks scored in double figures.

The Raptors play host to the Orlando Magic tomorrow night.


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