Doin' it the hard way

MIKE GANTER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 10:29 AM ET

Four wins in five games and a .500 record overall. Not bad, not bad at all, particularly when one considers the Raptors' record hasn't been this good this late in the season in three years.

But three words the Raptors hear a lot these days are "playing with fire."

It's been the post-game refrain of veteran reserve point guard Darrick Martin for the better part of the just completed homestand. Martin can only hope his message is getting through.

"I don't know what I'll do next, but it's getting to the point where I'm ready to throw something," Martin said after the Raps needed yet another fourth-quarter flurry to salvage a winnable game, this one by a 96-90 score over an injury-weakened Boston Celtics club.

Martin's fear -- and it's one that is starting to be echoed by some of the more veteran Raptors -- is that there is no way they can continue to win games the way they have been winning them. At some point the percentages are going to catch up to them.

Add to that the fact the Raps aren't likely to see another such run of injury-plagued teams any time soon and you can begin to understand Martin's concern.

"A lot of it is learning curve," Martin said. "Other than myself and Mo Pete, we're very young. As a veteran, I need to let them know that if we're trying to get where we're trying to get, these are the games we have to close out. Over 82 games, you just can't keep doing what we're doing. You need to have some easy ones."

It's to the point now where Raptors fans can almost recite the game story ahead of time: Play just badly enough for three quarters that the visitors have a lead going into the fourth. Then ratchet up the defence and find the shooting touch that had been eluding them for much of the game.

Last night was no different.

Trailing 71-69 after three quarters, the Raps turned the screws on the Celtics, but not before Boston had extended its lead to six with just more than seven minutes to go.

With 7:22 left, the Raps began a 16-0 run that took the game down to its final minute.

Head coach Sam Mitchell was full of praise for Jorge Garbajosa, who single-handedly shut down Al Jefferson in the fourth after the Celts forward had torched the Raps for 20 points over the first three quarters.

"Garbo did a great job on Jefferson, getting him off the post," Mitchell said. "He was big for us because the guy was having his way with us for three quarters."

Chris Bosh led the Raptors with 26 points, followed closely by Anthony Parker's career-high 23 including seven three-pointers. Bosh, however, wasn't getting much love from his head coach after this one, nor from the media.

"Same thing happened last year when you all bombarded him with making the all-star team," Mitchell said making sure to point the finger of blame at the media. "I thought all the guys played well in the fourth quarter, but I'm not going to come back and hand Chris all the praise because Chris got it handed to him for three quarters.

"The other guys did a good job, but Chris battled for us down the stretch, he made some plays for us, but I'm sure he'll be the first to admit they had him off balance."

The Raps now head to Indianapolis for a date tonight with the 22-20 Indiana Pacers.

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REPORT CARD

B- Offence: The Raptors nailed 13 three-pointers in 29 attempts, as compared to only seven in 18 tries by Boston.

B+ Defence: Toronto allowed the Celtics to shoot 48% from the floor, but also forced Boston to turn the ball over 20 times.


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