Bosh standing up

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh is rallying the troops in a fight for first in the NBA's Atlantic...

Toronto Raptors' Chris Bosh is rallying the troops in a fight for first in the NBA's Atlantic Division. (Toronto Sun File/Ernest Doroszuk)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

Chris Bosh is well aware that the Atlantic Division is not the NBA's equivalent of the Group of Death at the World Cup.

While the Raptors star doesn't spend his spare time in December reading the standings for hours on end, Bosh's friends won't let him forget about the fact his team plays in the worst division in basketball.

As a result, the 7-10 Raptors find themselves just a half-game behind the front-running New Jersey Nets after 17 games. It certainly would not be anything to write home about for most teams, but the Raptors have been the opposite of contenders the past four years, so you can't blame the team's fans for being excited about a division race for snails.

"I know what our record is and I know the standings because people can't help but tell me," Bosh said in the aftermath of the Raptors' 103-100 road win over the New York Knicks Saturday, the team's second victory in a row and its fourth in the past five games.

"It's looking decent for us right now. We know we've got to get over .500. We've got to keep working every game and just try to win every game. The attitude has changed around here."

So has the placement of the club. On Saturday night, the Raptors actually were a win and a Nets loss away from taking over top spot in the Atlantic. But the Nets went on to beat the Philadelphia 76ers, leaving the Raptors in sole possession of second ahead of the Boston Celtics, Philly and the Knicks. The Raptors haven't been anywhere close to the top of the standings since they started 2004-05 at 3-0. Of course, that grip on first place didn't last too long.

The Eastern Conference, as a whole, features just three teams over .500, leaving the door wide open for a slow-starting team like Toronto to climb up the standings with a push.

"That's the main thing, that's why guys can't hang their heads that long," Bosh said. "We kind of got off to a slow start, but we're kind of picking it up."

The Raptors are 3-1 against Atlantic opponents this season and 6-3 against the East, overall. If the Raptors can withstand a tough coming schedule -- four out of the next five games on the road with a home date against the Portland Trail Blazers sandwiched in between -- they could be lined up for a first-place showdown against the Nets Dec. 15 at the Air Canada Centre. Someone call ABC!

"It's a new team and every game we play together, we are getting better," Raptors rookie Andrea Bargnani said.

"That's normal."

But fortunately for the Raptors, their lot in life these days isn't normal. The team didn't win its seventh game last season until Game No. 29.


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