Despite letting Jeff Foster look like Shaquille O'Neal's smaller, paler twin brother, the Raptors stepped up in a big way last night.
Foster man-handled the Raptors on the boards, especially in the first half, but Toronto made the appropriate adjustments at the half to come from behind and defeat the Indiana Pacers 93-89.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak for the 22-41 Raptors and represented one of the few times recently when they actually won a game that was decided in the last few minutes.
Raptors guard Morris Peterson said the win was a breath of fresh air for the team.
NO MORE BULLYING
"It's like when the bully comes around pushing you around so much it gets to the point when you get tired," Peterson said.
"You want to do anything you can to win games."
A trio of Raptors provided the late-game heroics. Peterson nailed a 24-foot jump shot to tie the game 89-89 with 1:29 left, and then pulled in an offensive rebound on a Stephen Jackson shot on the very next play. Following a time-out, Chris Bosh stole the ball from Peja Stojakovic with 28.9 on the clock and the Raps called a timeout.
With Peterson waving his arms for noise from the Air Canada Centre crowd of 17,573, Mike James made a 21-foot jump shot with 8.2 seconds left to put Toronto ahead 91-89. On Indiana's next possession, rookie forward Charlie Villanueva blocked an Anthony Johnson shot, prompting rookie Danny Granger to take a foul. James then stepped up and and sunk two frees for a 93-89 Toronto victory.
"I was struggling in the offensive end, and that big defensive play made up for it," said Villanueva, who scored just six points with five rebounds while making three block shots.
Bosh had 24 points and eight rebounds, while Peterson had 25 points.
The Pacers, now 31-29, led for most of the game, with the Raptors nipping at their heels.
Not until Bosh hit a free throw with 6:10 left in the fourth quarter, after bringing the to its feet with a huge dunk, did the Raptors take their first lead (82-81) since early in the first quarter.
Mitchell started Pape Sow for only the seventh time this season and Foster took advantage of Sow's inexperience, racking up 10 rebounds and eights points before being sat down with 3:37 to go in the first quarter. Foster finished the game with 16 boards and 19 points. At one point in the first quarter, Foster pulled in three offensive boards on one possession before Stephen Jackson finally nailed a three-pointer to put Indiana ahead, 17-12.
Both teams were without key men.
The Pacers were without star forward Jermaine O'Neal (torn left groin), as well as key veterans Fred Jones (torn thumb ligament) and Austin Croshere (concussion), while Toronto was without Antonio Davis (back strain), Eric Williams (sore back) and Jose Calderon (sore heel).