Schooled at the Palace

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:43 AM ET

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- As the Palace of Auburn Hills public address announcer butchered the pronunciation of Raptors names, such as Barni-own-ee for Bargnani and Garaboush for Garbajosa, the Pistons cut through the Toronto defence.

The Raptors led by as much as 10 early in the game, but fatigue appeared to be a factor late for the Raptors, who defeated the Los Angeles Lakers the night before. In the end, the Pistons held on for a 98-92 victory last night.

The contest featured an intriguing matchup between star power forwards Rasheed Wallace of the Pistons and Chris Bosh of the Raptors. It was the veteran Wallace who made the biggest difference, scoring 28 points and picking up seven boards, as the Pistons ended Toronto's win-streak at five games.

Bosh, who turned the ball over five times, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was suffocated by Wallace and Detroit double-teams -- though he did slam home a dunk with 33 seconds left to bring Toronto to within five.

It wasn't enough, as Toronto fell to 27-24 on the season and Detroit improved to 31-18.

"He's been in this league a long time," Bosh said of Wallace. "He's a big strong guy and he's long too, so when he shoots turnaround jump shots, all you can do is hope he misses.

"We're going to have to be a lot tougher (as a team)," Bosh added, in terms of what the Raptors need to do to defeat elite veteran teams such as the Pistons.

"But this is our first time playing the best team in the East and we want to get to that point, so we have to learn from this game. I know I'm going to get a copy of the film and try to see where those double-teams are coming from so I'll be better prepared next time."

Head coach Sam Mitchell refused to use fatigue as a excuse, insisting that he was proud of the way the Raptors played in a emotionally charged game in which both teams screamed at the refs.

"I like who and what we are right now. I saw a lot of good things. I thought our young players grew up a little bit," he said.

"They beat us, they made plays, but I think our young guys got a taste of how it's going to be the second half of the season after the (all-star) break.

"(This) game is a classic example of how the last 30 games are going to be," added Morris Peterson, who had 10 points off the bench. "It will be tough atmospheres (every-where) as teams are fighting for (playoff) spots."

WRITING ON THE WALL

The writing was on the wall with just over six minutes left when Bosh pulled in two offensive rebounds in a row, but did not go hard to the basket, passing it off instead, and both Andrea Bargnani and T. J. Ford missed shots. Lindsey Hunter then scored on the next possession to put Detroit up 85-78.

Ford, the starting point guard, picked up a double-double for the Raptors, scoring 17 with 11 assists, while Anthony Parker had 12 points and nine rebounds. Bargnani had 15 off the bench. By the fourth quarter, the Detroit p.a. man gave up trying to pronounce his name, referring to him only as Andrea, which he also mispronounced.

Richard Hamilton had 21 points, eight assists and four boards for Detroit.

The 22,076 fans at the Palace went ballistic with 4:41 left when Wallace was slapped with a technical after stepping out of bounds and arguing the call. Parker then hit both free throws to bring Toronto to within a point. But the more refreshed Pistons found another gear and pulled ahead, holding on for the win.

The Raptors jumped into a 24-18 lead after one quarter, highlighted by a flagrant foul call on Hamilton by referee Olandis Poole, which brought down the wrath of the fans. Parker hit both free throws to give Toronto a 20-11 lead.

The Raptors led by as much as 10 points in the second quarter, with Joey Graham silencing the crowd with a huge one-handed dunk to put Toronto ahead 34-24.

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REPORT CARD

C Offence: Shot 46% and scored 12 fast-break points to Detroit's six, but only 7-for-22 from beyond the arc.

C Defence: Were outrebounded 42-34 and gave up 19 second-chance points while only scoring 12.


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