Raptors' confidence builds

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:00 AM ET

The Raptors are no longer satisfied with winning games here and there.

There's a growing sense on the young NBA team that a playoff spot is very possible, and some players are even thinking beyond that.

"We're trying to win a championship and trying to get home court in the playoffs," said Chris Bosh, who scored 20 points along with nine rebounds last night in a 101-85 victory over the struggling Sacramento Kings.

TWO WINS IN A ROW

The Raptors have won two in a row to climb to 19-21, and remain atop the weak Atlantic Division.

Last night's victory came as a result of a typically strong game by Bosh, as well as an excellent effort from the bench, which outscored Sacramento's substitutes, 50-12.

Trailing 69-68 with one quarter to go, the Raptors went on a tear in the fourth, outscoring the Kings 33-16. Prior to the last night's game, the Raps were 3-18 this season when trailing after three. Sacramento has dropped seven straight, falling to 14-22.

Morris Peterson, who has been the subject of numerous trade rumours this season, put his frustrations behind him to lead the bench corp with 22 points and five rebounds

Backup point guard Jose Calderon had 11 points and nine assists, while forward Joey Graham picked up 10 points and four boards off the bench. Starting small forward Jorge Garbajosa finished the game with 16 points, six rebounds and two steals.

But it was the defence that had head coach Sam Mitchell feeling particularly satisfied.

"I feel like if you throw away maybe the first 12-14 games of the season, our defence has been as good as anyone's," the coach said. "The guys are buying into the concepts of what we're trying to do and they understand if we do those things, it makes it hard for teams to score on us. And they're talking on defence. They're taking pride in stopping people."

Bosh said knowing that a victory actually means something these days makes it easier to fight back after trailing for much of the game.

"To know that we're playing for something means that every possession is important," he said. "We have to get every loose ball, every rebound we have to fight for, because we're trying to do something special."

The Raptors are flirting with .500 and achieving that mark would represent the first time since 2004 that they have more wins than losses in the new year.

"I think so," said Calderon, when asked if .500 is a reasonable possibility. "I have 100% confidence in my teammates and my coach, and I think we can do it. But we don't want to talk too much about that or think about that. We just want to be ready for practice (today) and be ready for the next game."

Noted hothead and defensive specialist Ron Artest had 18 points and five boards for the Kings while the ever improving Kevin Martin picked up 18 points and six rebounds. Point guard Mike Bibby had 21 points.

The Kings visit Detroit on Saturday, marking the first time Artest has been to the Palace at Auburn Hills since his infamous charge into the stands two seasons ago.


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