Andrea the giant

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

ORLANDO -- The Raptors may have their own version of the Killer B's.

With franchise player Chris Bosh (sore left knee) out for the third game in a row, No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani stepped up in a large way and led the team to a badly needed victory.

The 7-foot Italian drained five three-pointers in the second half as Toronto snapped a four-game losing streak, beating the Eastern Conference-leading Orlando Magic 91-84.

"Especially for the mentality of the team, it was very important because we played very bad the last two games," Bargnani said.

No kidding. Coming off two lifeless losses against the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat, the Raptors led almost the entire way and, for a change, delivered a consistent effort.

Bargnani scored a game-high 23 points, nailing three successive three pointers in the fourth quarter over an overmatched fellow high European pick, Darko Milicic. When the Magic trimmed the lead to four, the Big Rook came up big again, hitting another three.

"I'm not surprised, he is the No. 1 pick," swingman Morris Peterson said. "Obviously Bryan (GM Colangelo) and those guys saw something in him. He has a lot of talent. It's rare to find a guy his size who can put the ball on the floor and knock down shots from almost anywhere on the court. I think it was a no-brainer to take him as the No. 1 pick."

While Bargnani was the catalyst, everybody in the dressing room deserved to smile after the much-improved effort. The heat was on coach Sam Mitchell and crew to do something positive in the wake of two terrible performances and the coach tried to lift the spirits of his team with a motivational speech before shootaround.

"We tell them all the time, life is tough (and) it ain't easy for nobody," Mitchell said. "If you get down on yourself, you're never going to rebound. The thing we keep talking about is it's a long season, we've just got to stay together, play together and just keep fighting together. And if you do that, good things are going to happen."

Mitchell knew his team was in the right frame of mind well before the game.

"When we got on the bus for the drive over, I said to J.T. (assistant coach Jim Todd, it reminds me when we came down here and played with the Pacers before a playoff game, how quiet the bus was," Mitchell said. "It was just silent, you could hear a pin drop."

Bargnani wasn't the only player to have a big night. Centre Rasho Nesterovic, who never complains despite inconsistent playing time, did yeoman's work guarding Magic big, big man Dwight Howard and recorded season highs in minutes (39), rebounds (10) and blocked shots (five).

Peterson also showed signs of life, hitting a layup to put the Raptors up eight with less than a minute left and scoring 12 points.

Defensively, the Raptors held the Magic, missing starters Hedo Turkoglu and Jameer Nelson to injury, to 37.6% shooting.

"I think one of you said it, when we get our backs against the wall and people start doubting us, we find a way," Mitchell said.

They sure did last night.

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REPORT CARD

A-

Offence: Flirted with the 50% mark for much of the night and spread the floor nicely. Also did some good things on the run.

A-

Defence: While they struggled on the boards at times, when the action wasn't close to the net, the Raptors made the Magic take tough shots and it resulted in a lower-than-usual opponent field goal percentage.


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