A different, better visit

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:14 AM ET

ORLANDO -- How far have the Raptors come?

Consider the previous time the team and coach Sam Mitchell were here, on Dec. 13. Their season was in free fall while Mitchell's future with the organization hung in the balance.

ABSENCE

The Raptors had lost four in a row, were two games into a 12-game absence of Chris Bosh and were a season-low seven games under .500.

Flash forward to last night. Bosh is healthy and producing like the perennial all-star he has become, Mitchell is a solid coach-of-the-year candidate and the Raptors continue to roll to what they hope will be a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference. That would guarantee home court in the first round of the playoffs.

The Raptors took another step forward last night with a hard-fought 111-108 win over the Orlando Magic that went down to the wire.

A Hedo Turkoglu miss, one of the few he had on the night with 10.9 seconds to go and the Raps up by one, found its way into the hands of Orlando big man Dwight Howard. At the same time, Bosh was being pulled to the floor by a crafty Grant Hill just as the ball found Howard. That sent Bosh to the other end where he made both free throws for a three-point lead.

Turkoglu, who made six of 10 from three-point range had another shot from the corner to tie the game as the clock wound down but missed.

The win gave Toronto a 11/2 game lead on Miami for third in the conference with seven games remaining.

All season the constant with the Raptors has been their resiliency and they needed it last night as the Magic put on a shooting display in the first quarter connecting on an incredible 15-of-18 shots to take a 37-24 lead.

They stretched that lead to as big as 15 before the Raptors started finding their range. By halftime the Magic lead as down to five.

"When we got the lead down, we felt like we had given ourselves a chance to win the game," Mitchell said. "We just had to find a way to get a key rebound and start making some shots and keep playing hard."

In the third quarter, when the Raptors took the lead for good, it was the combination of Joey Graham and Anthony Parker who went a combined 6-for-11, five of those from three-point range. Each player had 10 points in the quarter.

"We just started hitting shots," Graham said. "That is what helped us. We got our legs underneath us."

Bosh, who finished with a team-high 28 points and 10 boards, said the game was physical, particularly trying to control Howard.

READY

"I think the referees are getting ready for the post-season," Bosh said. "That game we played (Monday night) in Miami was one of the most physical games we have had all year. That's good for us that we can maintain our own play (in that environment)."


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