Raps 'knuckle down'

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:50 AM ET

The only real complaint Raptors coach Sam Mitchell has had about his club of late was some lacklustre defence in their previous four games.

Those defensive deficiencies, however, were masked by offensive runs that saw the Raps put up an average of 116 points a night, and win all four.

But last night, especially early on, the offence wasn't there, forcing the Raptors to step up their defence. And step up it did, holding the Los Angeles Lakers to under 38% shooting in the first half on their way to a 96-92 win.

"That first quarter, we weren't getting the shots we wanted," said Anthony Parker, the man most responsible for keeping Kobe Bryant from going off on the Raptors last night. "We had some layups that wouldn't fall and some free throws. Those nights, you really have to knuckle down and get it done defensively and we did that. Shots don't fall all the time, but defensively I thought altogether we did a great job."

The Raptors also showed some veteran savvy down the stretch as the Lakers, who were down by as many as 12 before the midway point of the final quarter, erased that deficit and grabbed a two-point lead of their own with two minutes to go.

Morris Peterson, a guy who is making a reputation for himself with big fourth quarter shots, knocked down a three-pointer from the corner to grab the lead back for good.

From that point on, the Raptors defence stepped it up as the Lakers missed their final four shots, two by Bryant including a good look from three-point land with less than two seconds remaining that would have sent the game into overtime.

"It was kind of nerve-wracking because he did have a pretty decent look at the basket," Chris Bosh said.

The win was the fifth in a row for the Raptors and they have matched their 27-win total of last season, a point they didn't reach last year until the 80-game mark.

Bosh and Bryant each scored 10 points in the final quarter but it was Bosh who sealed it coming down with the rebound on the missed Bryant three-pointer.

Bosh was out at the top of the arc, altering Bryant's potential game-tying shot and then raced back into the paint to outjump anyone and everyone looking for the rebound.

"I went up to box out Maurice Evans and I looked up and I had Chris' feet in my face," Peterson said. "That's how high he went up to get that rebound."

Bosh wound up with a game-high 29 points. He hit on just one of his first four attempts and then made 10 in a row, once again bringing out the "MVP!" chants from a sellout crowd of 20,112 at the Air Canada Centre.

It was Parker's work on Bryant early on that set the tone in this one.

"Any time you can keep his points around his attempts you've done a pretty good job," Parker said. "It's the team. We were all in there and when he got by one of us, the next line of defence was there. That's why those other guys were getting those open looks because we were focusing on Kobe."

Bryant finished the night with 25 points on 10-of-23 shooting.

Parker managed 18 of his own but, combined with his aggressive work on Bryant, a case could easily be made that he was second to no one on this night.

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REPORT CARD

B Offence: The Raps shot just under 49% from the floor after a horrendous first quarter and made most of the late shots they had to make to hang on to this one.

A Defence: It hasn't been that strong of late but it was there last night, particularly in the final minute when the Lakers had three trips down the floor and failed to score.


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