Raptors ratchet it up

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The Raptors were truly offensive yesterday, but nobody inside the Air Canada Centre seemed to mind.

Shooting 59% from the field -- including a team-record tying 70% in the first half -- the high-flying Raptors shot down the Los Angeles Clippers 122-110, improving their season record to 25-23, the first time since 2004 that the team has found itself two games over .500 after Jan. 1.

The Raptors also improved to 16-7 at home, surpassing their home win total of all of last season (15-27). The 122 points also was a season-high and a Clippers opponent season high.

"I'm proud of the way my team is playing," head coach Sam Mitchell said. "They're playing with confidence, they're playing together, they're executing and if we do that, we're going to be tough to beat."

The key to the game, obviously, was shooting the lights out. But it was also doing a better job on the boards in the second half. In the first 24 minutes, the Clippers had 12 offensive rebounds, but only managed one after the break.

"We were making it too easy for them (in the first half)," said Toronto's all-star forward, Chris Bosh. "That's the way they were staying in the game and we had to take that away from them."

Bosh had a team-high 27 points, including a huge basket off an offensive rebound in the fourth quarter. He was also fouled on the play and sunk the free throw, giving Toronto an insurmountable 113-99 lead with 31/2 minutes left in the game. He also had seven boards and four assists.

Jose Calderon, starting at the point guard spot, picked up his sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds, while T.J. Ford had 17 points and seven assists off the bench. Five Raptors in all scored 17 points or better.

Starting small forward Jorge Garbajosa broke out of a shooting slump in a big way, scoring 17 points, shooting 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, the first time since Jan. 17 that he has scored in double digits.

"If Garbo makes (jump shots), it makes it harder to double Chris," Mitchell said. "It gives you more and more (offensive options)."

Morris Peterson, who had 18 points off the bench and five rebounds, hit a trio of three-pointers in the last three minutes to seal the deal for the Raptors.

"I think the difference between a winning season and a losing season is closing games out," Peterson said of the win. "If you look at what we did last year, we had a lot of close games and we didn't know how to close them. This year, different personnel and a different attitude."

The Clippers star power forward Elton Brand, who went head-to-head against Bosh, had 21 points and a game-high 10 rebounds for L.A. Point guard Sam Cassell had 17 and eight assists and Cuttino Mobley had a team-high 24 points. The Clippers struggled from the free-throw line, hitting 21-for-31.

Toronto forged a 66-54 lead after the second quarter, the most points in a half this season. The highlight of the second period was a bounce pass from Ford to Peterson, who finished the play with a reverse layup and a 53-44 Toronto lead.

A short while later, Joey Graham finished off a give-and-go with Bosh with a huge slam for a 59-49 lead. Bosh had 18 points in the half. Cassell had the hot hand for L.A. in the third quarter, scoring 11, but Toronto still held a 10-point lead (92-82).

The Raps jumped to a 36-30 lead after one quarter, on the strength of 11 points by Bosh and six assists by Calderon, including an alley-oop pass to rookie forward Andrea Bargnani, who slammed it for a 27-21 lead. The Clippers' Corey Maggette hit a 25-foot jump shot at the buzzer.

REPORT CARD

A Offence: Where to start? The Raptors shot 59% from the field, 12-for-20 from the three-point line and spread the ball around well, picking up 30 assists. They also out-scored the larger Clippers in the paint, 32-28.

C Defence: Raps did a decent job containing Elton Brand, who had 21 points, but did not do a great job guarding the rest of the Clips. L.A. shot 47% from the field, 11-for-20 on threes.


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