Pass with flying colours

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

Call it four days of rest and relaxation well-earned.

The Raptors head into the NBA all-star break feeling rather good about themselves, and rightly so.

More than a few skeptics were pointing to the four games heading into the break as a bit of a mental test for this rejuvenated Raptors club.

A back-to-back against the Los Angeles Lakers and Detroit, followed by another two in two nights versus Chicago and New Jersey were the test. And not only did the Raps hold their own in this potentially season-altering string of games, they won three of the four.

Following last night's 120-109 win at the Air Canada Centre over an injury-depleted Nets lineup, the Raps head into the break fourth overall in the Eastern Conference, having leapfrogged the Bulls, who were 100-85 losers in Charlotte.

Even Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell admitted he was curious to see how his club would respond to the four- game stretch.

"I thought it would be interesting to see how we did," Mitchell said. "So much was said about the teams we were playing. Most of them were .500 or better and I think we lost what, once. And that was to Detroit on a back-to-back and we had a chance to win that basketball game."

Mitchell said the key to the Raps' success is no big secret.

"I think we're just moving the basketball," he said. "I think Jose (Calderon) and T.J. (Ford) have done an unbelievable job of distributing the basketball. I think Chris (Bosh), when he is trapped, is moving the ball and it becomes contagious. Everybody moves the ball. Guys know they are going to touch it.

"We're just playing well right now. We're playing with a lot of confidence and guys are stepping up and taking shots."

Last night, the Raptors shot a scintillating 58.9% from the field, getting double-figure scoring from seven different players, led once again by Bosh who had 25 points and nine boards, not to mention a season-high tying six assists.

Morris Peterson, who had 18 points in just more than 32 minutes, said that as bleak as things looked after the club's 2-8 start to the year, he knew the work ethic eventually would pay dividends.

"The thing is I think we believed," Peterson said. "A lot of people were calling us out. A lot of people were saying: 'Here we go again.' But if you look at our schedule, we started out with the toughest part.

"After that 2-8 start, our work started paying off. You get out of this game what you put into it and the guys in this room have worked hard and have put a lot into this."

Last night's game marked yet another visit from ex-Raptor Vince Carter who, as he usually is, became the focal point for the sellout crowd of 19,800.

Carter, who finished the night with a paltry 17 points and 10 assists, even got caught by TV cameras mocking the fans MVP chants for Bosh.

Not long after that, the "Carter sucks" chants began. Whether it had an impact on him, only Carter knows for sure, but the 17 points were well below his season average of 24.8, although the absence of point guard Jason Kidd, out with a sore back, must be factored in.

The Nets would not have even been in this one had it not been from some outstanding production from their bench.

Bostjan Nachbar led all Nets with 26 points while Eddie House had 19 off the bench.


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