Feel-good victory

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:44 AM ET

The Raptors couldn't take the heat that is the NBA's tough Western Conference.

But against an inferior and completely overmatched Miami side, the Raptors were able to torch the Heat to the tune of 96-54, a record low by a Toronto opponent in club history.

Under most circumstances, the first home game back from a long West Coast trip is considered the most problematic as players get their legs under them in adjusting to the different time zone.

Last night, though, was not an ordinary tip against a Heat team ravaged by injuries.

Other than the personal numbers and the fact the Raptors ended an onerous five-game losing streak, nothing substantial could be gleaned from this exercise.

Had Miami rolled out a team that resembled an NBA club, Toronto's win would have carried more weight and more meaning.

When Ricky Davis emerged as the only recognizable name on the Heat roster, the Raptors had to win.

As bad as they looked in their 0-5 trip to the NBA's wild west, a loss last night against this rag-tag Heat team would have raised more red flags than any NASCAR race.

This was exactly what the doctor had ordered, a roundball panacea for a Raptors team that needed a win to begin to feel good about themselves.

Buoyed by the return of franchise player Chris Bosh, the feel-good night began from the opening tip to the final buzzer.

"It (knee) feels good, but if you ask how the rest of my body is feeling, it's a different question,'' Bosh said.

"I'm just trying to get back into shape. Everything is at 100% or close to it, so I'm just trying to build on it."

Never at any point during the 48-minute period of tedium did the Heat mount any threat.

To think fans at the ACC actually paid to watch the game was a travesty in itself, even if the home side won.

For a team that can't rebound with any consistency, the Raptors were able to control the glass as though the ghosts of Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone were in the building.

For a team that looked dysfunctional during their five-game funk, the Raptors were in sync.

But, keep in mind that this was the Heat, minus Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem and a supporting cast with more ailments than initials in their names.

A more stern test for the Raptors awaits tomorrow night in Cleveland, where LeBron James and the Cavs play host to the Raptors in a possible post-season preview.

At least Sam Mitchell got to use his bench and watch Bosh return from his 10-game absence in the wake of a right knee injury.

The Raptors went 2-8 in Bosh's absence and came perilously close to coming apart at the seams as players adjusted to new roles and responsibilities.

The Raptors went to Bosh on the opening possession, dumping the ball into the post to their big man and only consistent low-post presence.

COMES UP SHORT

Bosh tried a reverse layup by beginning his move on the right block, but his attempt came up short.

It's obvious Bosh needs to work out the rust, but his presence alone seemed to lift the team's sagging spirits.

For the game, Bosh played 22 minutes and scored eight points on 2-for-10 shooting. He added eight rebounds, but more importantly Bosh got to run the floor and feel part of the team.

T.J. Ford got to play extended minutes following his implosion against the Jazz in Utah on Monday.

Ford wasn't so much looking to score or force his offence as he was in getting his teammates involved, an encouraging sign for a player whose style is suddenly being questioned.

Jamario Moon set a career high by hauling down 14 rebounds, but the caveat being that no Heat seemed willing to put a body on anyone.

Players from the D-League, players on 10-day contracts, players even the most diehard baller wouldn't know masqueraded for Miami.

This was ugly, but for the Raptors, it was a thing of beauty.


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