Dagger to Raptors heart

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:56 AM ET

Like all great villains, Vince Carter waits for the spotlight before summoning all of his evil forces.

In a performance that would have made fellow wrong-doers Darth Vader and Hannibal Lecter proud, the Raptors quitter sucked the life out of his old team and fans by completing a hostile takeover of the Air Canada Centre yesterday.

After taking good friend Morris Peterson out of the game, thanks to a good-hearted slapfest that resulted in a controversial ejection, the New Jersey Nets star capped a 42-point afternoon with a game-winning, buzzer-beating three-pointer as the red-hot visitors prevailed 105-104.

"This one," Carter said after scoring the final 12 points of the game, "goes up to No. 1 (on his career highlight list)."

Because of Carter's 24 fourth-quarter points, the Nets won the fierce, technical foul-filled battle of the two hottest teams in the Eastern Conference. The Nets extended their winning streak to 10 games and snapped Toronto's at five before a season-high crowd of 18,935.

The miracle 26-foot shot, from the left elbow, with Jose Calderon in his face, dropped with 0.1 seconds left. Calderon missed a free throw with 7.2 seconds left -- after making his previous three -- to open the door. Jason Kidd grabbed the rebound, hustled up the court and passed it back to Carter, who delivered the clincher.

Equally important was another Carter three with 24.7 seconds to play that pulled the Nets to within one, after they trailed by six with a minute left.

"I think that was a 10," ex-Raptor and current Net Lamond Murray said. "Coming into a hostile environment to stick a dagger in their heart? It doesn't get any better."

The question is: Would this dagger have been possible if no-nonsense referee Steve Javie didn't have his back turned to Carter late in the second quarter? Peterson had just been assessed a technical foul for arguing a call and Carter went on to miss the free throw.

Carter gave MoPete a playful slap to the face, which Javie didn't see. Peterson slapped back and Javie slapped the Raptors swingman with his second technical, resulting in an automatic ejection for Carter's primary defender in the game.

Peterson went ballistic, ripping off his jersey and throwing it into the crowd. He could face a suspension for his actions, which would put his NBA-high consecutive games streak (313) in jeopardy.

"My fault?" Peterson said. "I'd have to blame it on me because I lured myself. I wish I could have been out there in the fourth quarter. it probably would have made a difference ... Hats off to Steve."

The Nets also were short-handed as key forward Richard Jefferson left with back spasms after playing two minutes.

It was, without question, the toughest loss of the season for the Raptors, who received a reward of nothing for a gutsy effort. Chris Bosh led the way with 27 points, including 13 in the fourth, and Mike James added 26.

"We can't let this break our back," Bosh said. "We have to talk about (yesterday) and what we could have done better and keep our energy up because Chicago is waiting for us (tonight). They're not going to feel sorry for us."


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