Win over Knicks hurts

Raptors guard Jose Calderon drives to the net against the Knicks on Wednesday night. Calderon later...

Raptors guard Jose Calderon drives to the net against the Knicks on Wednesday night. Calderon later left the game with a leg injury. (Sun Media/Greg Henkenhaf)

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:37 AM ET

A playoff basketball atmosphere returned to the Air Canada Centre last night for the first time in five years.

Never mind that only Morris Peterson from the current roster was around for that previous real taste of pressure-packed basketball, these Raptors looked surprisingly comfortable in this uncharted territory.

Of course, maybe it's not so surprising to those that have been closely following this team. The Raptors have a certain swagger about them, a cockiness that no matter what the opposition throws at them or how big the deficit is, this group can come back.

And for the past three games, no one has embodied that attitude more than T.J. Ford.

The Raptors point guard was on fire hitting for 18 points and most impressively a career high-tying 18 assists in a 104-94 win over the New York Knicks.

The victory extended the Raptors lead in the Atlantic Division to six games over the idle New Jersey Nets and 61/2 over the Knicks, who play host to Toronto on Sunday.

The Knicks actually had a six-point lead going into the second half before the Raptors took the game over, outscoring the Knicks 35-18 in the third quarter.

Chris Bosh, who had only four points the entire first half, turned up his game a few notches in the third quarter.

Jorge Garbajosa, limited to 13 minutes in Monday's game, rebounded with a career-high 18 points, including 10 in that game-altering third frame.

But for the third consecutive game, the best Raptor on the court was Ford, who is playing what observers consider his best basketball since joining Toronto.

"I'm just playing, I don't know (if this is my best). I've been in this situation before and I took my game to the next level, but not to the extreme of what I'm doing now. I feel the opportunity is a lot different for me here. I've been in the situation before where we were the fourth seeds and we just stopped playing team basketball and ended up in the eighth seed. We didn't take each game as important as we do here."

Ford said he couldn't even tell if last night was a playoff atmosphere or not.

"I'm in such a zone right now, I couldn't tell you," Ford said.

"It's just 12 on 12 out there. I'm so in the zone right now -- I don't hear nothing."

The game did not come without a cost.

Midway through the second quarter, guard Jose Calderon rolled over on his left ankle and had to leave the game. He was taken to hospital for diagnostic testing.

Then in the dying minutes of the third quarter, guard Anthony Parker, playing in his third game since returning from a sprained right ankle that cost him five games, went down again favouring the same ankle.

He limped off but went straight to the dressing room in obvious pain. Three minutes into the fourth quarter he was back on the floor.


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