NEW YORK -- When the game is tight and the clock is nearing zero, T.J. Ford knows two players on the Raptors almost always will determine the outcome -- himself of Chris Bosh.
Last night, in the wake of a clutch performance by Bosh just 24 hours earlier at home against the Boston Celtics, the little point guard took the reins and led the much-improved team to another big victory.
Ford had 20 points and 10 assists as the Raptors won for the second time in as many nights and the fourth time in the past five games, beating the New York Knicks 103-100 at Madison Square Garden.
"I just understand there are two people who are going to have the ball, either me or Chris, one of us has to make the play," said Ford, who even sank a couple of rare threes last night. "I just want to continue to build the confidence in my teammates that down the stretch if we need a play, we need a shot or a drive or penetrate and kick, they're going to have just as much comfort as I have in myself that I'm going to make the right play."
He did that several times late in the fourth quarter last night as the Raptors (7-10) vaulted into sole possession of second place in the Atlantic Division, just a half-game behind the front-running New Jersey Nets.
Twice the Knicks, who trailed by nine with about five minutes left, cut the deficit to one in the final two minutes and twice Ford responded.
First, he did it from the foul line, sinking two shots, and then he drove the lane for a clutch bucket to put the Raptors up by three again. On the Raptors' next possession, Jorge Garbajosa grabbed a key offensive rebound and passed it to Ford, who was fouled and then sank his shots.
As a result, the Raptors are on a legitimate roll after starting the season 2-8.
"We felt like we've been playing better, even on that (0-5) West Coast trip, we felt like we were getting close," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "We kept telling our guys we were getting close. To their credit, they came to practice and they blocked out everything everyone said about them and they just worked hard every day."
Bosh had a monster 21-point, nine-rebound first half last night before finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds for his common double-double. Big Eddy Curry led the way with 27 points for the Knicks, battling for buckets against everybody from starter Rasho Nesterovic to Kris Humphries to Bosh.
But Curry couldn't step up when it mattered.
"Our schedule has been brutal," Mitchell said. "We go home, practice and then we go back out on the road for two games, come home for one game and then we go back out again.
"We just keep telling ourselves if we can just win some games, keep our head above water and just keep getting better, hopefully when the schedule turns, we're playing well at that time and we can just put together a string of (wins)."
The Raptors have a rare stretch of three non-game days in a row before returning to the road for a two-game trip -- Wednesday against the Cleveland Cavaliers and Friday against the Chicago Bulls.
B Offence: The Raptors were streaky and failed to deliver knockout blows early, but they seemed to have a response for every Knicks' scoring charge.
B Defence: While the Raptors did the usual and allowed their opponent to hit at a 50% clip for much of the first half, they responded with a much-improved second half, making big defensive plays that led to baskets at the other end.