Raptors win ugly

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:42 AM ET

CHARLOTTE -- What do you get when you pit a Bobcat against a Raptor?

A really good Disney movie or a really ugly basketball game.

It was the latter last night at Charlotte Bobcats Arena.

Neither Toronto nor Charlotte likely will qualify for the NBA Final this spring, but the two squads looked like a couple of NBA Development League outfits last night, with the Raptors eventually leaving town with a 88-73 victory in front of 17,472 unimpressed fans to improve to 18-32.

The host team had an excuse for laying an egg as they were missing five key players because of injury -- forwards Emeka Okafor (right ankle sprain), Sean May (right knee surgery) and Gerald Wallace (shin bruise) and guards Raymond Felton (toe sprain) and Brevin Knight (left knee contusion).

The Raptors played well in spurts, particularly in the first and third quarters on defence, but it was a sloppy affair with 45 total turnovers, numerous travelling calls and terrible shooting.

The Raps jumped into a 23-11 to start the second quarter, and promptly self-destructed, allowing the home side to charge to a 37-36 lead at the half, despite shooting a miserable 26% from the floor.

According to a number of players, Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell out-did himself in the animated department inside the locker room at halftime.

"He let us have it, and deservedly so," said Morris Peterson, who recorded 10 points and 10 boards starting as a guard. "He got on some guys and challenged some guys. But that's what we needed. I'm just glad our guys responded."

Peterson, in fact, came up just two steals away from a triple-double. Rookie forward Charlie Villanueva, who started at small forward, was a bright light for the Raps, picking up 24 points and six rebounds while all-star Chris Bosh had his 23rd double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 boards.

Guard Mike James was two assists away from a double-double, pouring in 18 points and eight dimes.

Matt Carroll, averaging 6.5 points per game this season, came off the bench to lead the Bobcats with 26 points, 15 from beyond the arc. The Charlotte starting five combined for 25 points.

The Raptors launched 13 three-pointers in the opening 24 minutes and converted two.

Whatever Mitchell said to his under-performing troops at halftime certainly seemed to work, as Toronto opened the second half with a 20-4 run, hitting 11 shots in a row, and moved ahead 70-54 with one quarter left.

The victory improved Toronto's record to 17-17 since finishing the month of November with a 1-15 mark.

The Raptors are at home tomorrow (6 p.m.) against the Portland Trail Blazers.

REPORT CARD

Offence: The Raptors caught fire in the third quarter, shooting 87% from the floor, a franchise record for a quarter (13-for-15).

Defence: The Bobcats recorded team lows in field goal percentage (31%) and also had a team low for points in the first quarter (11).


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