Raptors get a respite

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

Morris Peterson may be one of the nicest guys in the NBA, but last night he really stuck the knife into the Portland Trail Blazers.

And twisted it.

Peterson scored 22 points -- 15 in the third quarter -- to go along with four assists, four rebounds and two steals in 28 total minutes, setting the tone as the Raptors crushed the Blazers 114-81 at the Air Canada Centre in front of an announced crowd of 15,014.

The victory was Toronto's second in a row and the Raps now are 18-17 since starting the season 1-15. This definitely is a team on the upswing.

"We knew we were better than what we were, and I knew you all thought that I was crazy (for staying optimistic)," Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell said.

"But when we lost, they were close games. It would be rebounding one night, turnovers one night. We just didn't shoot the ball well on some nights, but we had positive things to point to. We were optimistic that once we cleaned up those areas, we had a chance to win games."

On top of playing his usual strong defence, Mo Pete made some jaw-dropping offensive plays, such as when he received an alley-oop pass from Mike James in the third quarter, switched the ball from his left hand to his right and laid it in for a 72-42 lead.

Peterson is averaging a career-best 14.4 points per game for the Raptors.

"Actually, I felt a little sluggish before the game, a little tired for some reason," Peterson said.

"I don't know why, but I guess my body looked better than it felt."

Mitchell sat down his starters in the second half after his team went up by 31. The Raps play tonight in Minnesota and Wednesday in New York, so the extended rest was much needed.

"That's big," Peterson said. "We've been in a lot of dogfights and it's good to have a night like this."

Mitchell played his entire bench, including Loren Woods who has seen action in only nine games this season. After Woods scored on a diving dunk with 7:53 left in the fourth, the usually mild-mannered centre looked towards his own bench and began yelling and screaming while thumping his chest. Woods said that he just wanted to let his teammates know that he is alive and ticking, and that it was not directed at Mitchell.

Pape Sow missed two free throws with 1:15 left in the game. A conversion on either shot would have meant that all 12 Raptors would have left the game with at least one point.

Charlie Villanueva had 16 points along with nine boards while James had 19 points and six assists.

The 33-point margin of victory tied the third largest in the history of the franchise.

The loss was the fourth in the row for the Trail Blazers, who were without forward Darius Miles (right knee cartilage damage) and centre Joel Przybilla (right knee tendinitis). Starting centre Theo Ratliff was forced to leave last night's game in the second half because of a sore left ankle.


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