Ford gets his groove back

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:50 AM ET

INDIANAPOLIS -- The return of T.J. Ford arrived the moment he touched the floor to begin last night's fourth quarter.

This wasn't a case of Ford playing second-fiddle, looking to pass or finding his legs.

This was Ford pre-injury problems, attacking the rim with abandon, pushing the ball in the open floor, finding his teammates and directing them to their proper spots.

With Jose Calderon struggling, this was Ford's time to deliver and re-establish himself as a front-line player.

More than anything, Ford delivered the Raptors to their 102-98 win over the Pacers in a game short on style points.

Having played, and won, back-to-back games, the Raptors weren't about to complain, though.

"We need all 15 guys to win games," the team-first Calderon said. "It's a time when we can make a run."

With Minnesota on tap tomorrow and the Pacers on Friday, the Raptors have a very realistic opportunity of improving to nine games above .500 by week's end.

Maybe the backcourt burden has caught up to Calderon, who has had to play extended minutes in Ford's absence. It certainly wasn't a vintage performance for Calderon, who failed to produce a single assist.

In fairness, the Pacers did a nice job of taking the ball out of his hands.

They weren't as effective against Ford, who posted a team-high seven assists. Above everything else, he was the catalyst for the second unit, which helped take control in the second quarter after a very sluggish start by the starting five.

"Just trying to stay focused," Ford said. "That's all I'm trying to do. I know it's important for the second unit to come in and bring some energy."

The second-stringers accounted for 55 points. Carlos Delfino and Jason Kapono were the beneficiaries of several of Ford's passes.

"I'm just trying to be efficient, play smart,'' Ford said. "I'm trying to play with no worries, no fear."

Ford's night, from a personal perspective, would have been complete had he completed a late-game sequence.

With the Raptors in possession of the ball and the lead, Ford took Marquis Daniels off the dribble, attacked the paint and released a shot that appeared to be good.

It rimmed out, giving Indiana one final possession, which would turn out to be an ill-advised heave by Kareem Rush over the extended arms of Chris Bosh.

"I thought it was in," Ford said of his near-miss. "It looked good to me until it rolled out."

By going small, the Raptors were forced into a different type of game.

"That's the first time we've played small-ball, where we're switching," Ford said. "It's not something we work on in practice. We're not familiar with it, but I thought we did a good job."


Videos

Photos