Ugly game turns to beauty

MIKE GANTER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

In most people's minds, it was the definition of winning ugly.

For 40 minutes last night, the Raptors looked like anything but the team they have resembled for the better part of January.

A month they've won the games they were supposed to win, surprised a few teams along the way and gave the heavy favourites they've faced the fight of their lives.

But facing the New Orleans Hornets at the Air Canada Centre, who were missing two of their key starters and fit into that beatable bracket, the Raptors couldn't seem to get it in gear.

Guard Anthony Parker compared the evening to the movie Pursuit of Happiness where Will Smith's character just can't seem to catch a break.

"Nothing was going right for the guy and I think that was us out there tonight," Parker said.

That's how the Raptors were feeling for much of last night's ugliness until the final seven minutes of the game.

At that point, they were down by 15 and looking very much like they were headed for a loss and most likely a tongue-lashing from head coach Sam Mitchell.

Then came the Raptors defining run of the game, a 16-2 march built on the shoulders of some stifling defence and finally a thread of consistency on the offensive end.

The Raptors took their first lead on a Jose Calderon driving layup with 28.4 seconds to play in the game and then held on for a 90-88 win.

Parker, who finished the night with 12 points and a career high nine rebounds, said there was really no one turning point for him in the game.

"It was just a gradual chipping away, getting stops, getting some rebounds and starting to do the things that we do and once we did those things we started to knock down some shots and things started to turn our way."

Offensively it was the tandem of Chris Bosh and interim starting point guard Calderon who carried the load over the final seven minutes. The two combined for 19 of the final 26 points, Bosh's 11 leading the way.

Bosh was asked if last year's Raptors squad would have found a way to win last night's game.

"Last year, oh no, no, no," Bosh said.

"Last year we probably get down by 20 and put our heads down. You know, that's a wrap. That's the thing I like about this team. We just keep our eyes on the prize."

Mitchell, sounding more relieved than anything, refused to play along with the winning ugly theme.

"It was beautiful to me," Mitchell said.

For the coach the key to the game was holding New Orleans to 19 points in each of the second third and fourth quarters.

"It gave us a chance to get back in the game," Mitchell said. "They killed us on the offensive boards the first half but I don't think they got more than two that entire second half."

Bosh wound up with a season high 35, none bigger than his three-pointer with 1:01 to play that tied the game at 81.

The Raptors didn't get their usual heavy dose of offence from their bench but that was mainly because of the absence of Andrea Bargnani, who was scratched from the lineup with flu-like symptoms.

T.J. Ford missed his second game in a row with an ankle injury.

As a group the Raptors reserves pumped in 19 points on the night.

Not pretty, but enough to get the job done.


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