Raps moving on up

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

The Raptors had a real gas taking on the boys from Beantown last night.

Not that the key Atlantic Division contest was easy.

In a game that was tied 11 times, the Raptors rode big performances from their two leading men, Chris Bosh and T.J. Ford, to a 106-102 victory at the Air Canada Centre.

The win improved Toronto to 6-10 -- vaulting them from last place to second in the weak Atlantic -- with another divisional matchup tonight at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

Bosh, who is still hobbling because a sore right knee, picked up 25 points and 11 rebounds, for his 12th double-double of the season. Ford had 13 assists, 10 points and three steals.

Bosh had 10 points and four boards in the fourth quarter alone.

"That's one thing I'm trying to get better at, staying more composed down the stretch, because I think last year sometimes I kind of lost it," he said. "I just have more confidence in myself that I will make the right plays and score when it's time to score."

Meanwhile, a win over the Knicks tonight and a New Jersey Nets loss could actually propel Toronto into first place in the division. Their next three games are against teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have to take advantage of this stretch right here, against New York and against the teams in the East before we go back west, and try to get as close to .500 as we can," Ford said.

Four Raptors starters hit double-figures last night. Jorge Garbajosa, starting at centre, had 16, while shooting guard Anthony Parker added 17. Toronto's starting five (including Joey Graham), was 19-of-26 from the field (73%) and finished with 76 points. The Raptors allowed Boston to pull in only 33 boards, a season-low for an opponent.

The Raptors also did a good job guarding Boston star Paul Pierce in the first half, throwing double teams at him, and restricting him to only three points. However, the Celtics' forward picked up 11 in the third quarter and 19 overall.

"We just paid a lot of attention to him, especially down the stretch," Bosh said. "We tried to make him pass when he didn't want to."

Neither team could grab the other by the throat. With 36 seconds left, Raptors point guard Jose Calderon fouled Pierce, who sunk both to bring the Celtics to within three.

But on the next possession, Bosh was fouled by Delonte West. He missed the first free throw but nailed the second, for a 106-102 lead with just 15 seconds left on the clock.

Head coach Sam Mitchell shook up his starting lineup, inserting Graham in for the slumping Fred Jones. The experiment went for naught, though, Graham was lifted after less than two minutes with two fouls.

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REPORT CARD

A Offence: Toronto shot 55% from the floor and picked up 44 points in the paint. Shot one for six from three point range.

C Defence: Raptors defence forced Boston to turn the ball over 16 times, although the Celtics shot 54% from the field.


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