James shows heart, skill

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

Mike James continues to make his general manager, Rob Babcock, look like a genius.

Or at least like a guy who knows what he's doing.

Babcock pulled the trigger on a deal Oct.4 which sent Rafer Alston to the Houston Rockets for James, a swap of guards who march to the beat of their own drummer.

James, however, has out-played Alston this season and completely dominated as the two went head-to-head at the Air Canada Centre last night.

A former Duquesne University standout, James had a huge game, scoring 30 points with eight assists and seven rebounds as the 11-22 Raptors shot down the Rockets 112-92 for their fifth straight victory.

This Raptors team is starting to look like the real deal. The 17,460 on hand last night certainly enjoyed the high-energy affair, giving James a loud ovation when he left the game with 2:35 remaining.

James, who has played for six teams in five NBA seasons, has averaged 24.4 points in the past five games and seems to have found a home in Toronto.

"I keep telling people: 'No I'm not a pure point guard. No I'm not a shooting guard, but I'm a player. And I'm a winner, and all I can give you is my heart,' " he said.

He certainly did that last night. Alston, who has spent the past two days bad-mouthing Sam Mitchell, his former coach in Toronto, looked invisible for most of the night. Skip To My Lou must have skipped the pre-game pep talk (he did arrive fashionably late for the game) as he managed just two points and seven assists in 35 minutes.

Tracy McGrady was a one-man wrecking crew for the 12-19 Rockets, who have been without their all-star centre Yao Ming since Dec.19, when he had surgery to clean out an infection in his left big toe. McGrady led all players with 37 points.

The big story for the Raptors was their long-range shooting. Toronto went 12-for-27 from three-point range and shot 50% from the field. Chris Bosh continued his dominance at the frontcourt, picking up a double-double with 22 points, 16 boards and three blocks.

A revitalized Morris Peterson sealed the deal for the Raptors in the fourth quarter with 11 points, 19 in total, and six rebounds.

Rookie forward Charlie Villanueva gave the Raptors energy off the bench with 21 points and five rebounds, while Jalen Rose contributed 10.

"I'm proud of my guys," Mitchell said of his team. "Even when we were 1-13, I enjoyed coaching this team, because they're trying."

Mitchell started Matt Bonner in place of the bigger Rafael Araujo to face Dikembe Mutombo at centre. Although Mutombo had 13 rebounds, the Red Rocket held his own, playing tough on D.


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