Raps handed victory

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:46 AM ET

It will be recalled as one of the greatest upsets in Raptors history, even if it was somewhat misleading.

The Raptors, undermanned and riding a 10-game losing streak, beat the league-leading Detroit Pistons 108-103 last night in front a rapturous crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre.

Forget about the fact the Pistons sat most of their star players for the second and fourth quarters. For one game in a season full of frustration, the Raptors posted a rare victory to raise their record to 27-53.

The Pistons, who need only one victory in their final three games to set a single-season franchise record with 64 wins, dropped to 63-16.

Former Piston Mike James paced the Raptors with a career-high 39 points -- including 20 in the fourth quarter -- and sunk all 18 free-throw attempts.

"Whatever it takes to help my team win, I'm just thankful that we were able to pull one out," James said. "Even though they rested a lot of their starters, they're still a good team and their bench is going to have to step up in the playoffs to help them win a championship.

"We still had to play the Detroit Pistons and I'm just glad that we were able to play well enough to get a victory."

The Raptors trailed 76-70 after three quarters, in which the Pistons played their starting five and dominated the low post at both ends of the court.

In the third quarter, Rasheed Wallace tried a three-point shot with his left hand -- even though he is right-handed -- but missed badly.

"I was just out to prove that I have a better left than (former Raptor) Lindsey (Hunter)," Wallace said. "There ain't nothing behind it."

Pistons coach Flip Saunders benched Wallace after the shot.

"I knew it was time to get him out of there when he did that," Saunders said.

Morris Peterson, who scored 20 points for Toronto, wasn't too impressed.

"That kind of upset me," he said. "For a guy to take a shot with his other hand, I'm definitely going to remember that. That was something I didn't like."

The Raps trailed 88-79 with 7:32 to go in the game, then went on a 10-0 run beginning with a three-point shot by Joey Graham. James gave the Raps the go-ahead lead with a three-pointer.

Detroit regained the lead on on a layup by Carlos Delfino with 4:11 left, but the Raptors took the lead for good on a 19-foot jump shot by Jose Calderon, who finished with only six points but had nine assists -- most of them in the final quarter.

"The effort was great," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "These guys deserved that. They've been working hard and they've been coming close a lot and they deserved that."

Saunders said he had no intention of putting his regulars back in when Toronto started to pull ahead.

"This was a great opportunity (for the backups) in a game-type situation to get some on-the-court experience in a close game situation," he said. "That was our plan going in, still with the idea of trying to win the game."

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REPORT CARD

B Offence: Dominated on the boards, pulling in 42 rebounds to Detroit's 35. Also out-scored Pistons in the paint, 40-34.

C+ Defence: Allowed Detroit to shoot 51% from the floor and kept its big guns -- Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton in check.


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