These guys are good

FRANK ZICARELLI, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:40 AM ET

It evokes memories of Charles Oakley and Antonio Davis.

And it takes Raptors fans back in time when two front-court players knew their role, embraced it and played well off of each other.

While there's no one on the basketball planet quite like the inimitable Oak, the Raptors frontline of Chris Bosh and Rasho Nesterovic has turned heads, helping to turn around the team's recent fortunes.

Against the undermanned New York Knicks last night, the Raptors used a nice high-low sequence on their first offensive set with Bosh making a perfect entry pass to Nesterovic on the right block.

Showing his deft touch around the basket and excellent foot work, Nesterovic used his size advantage over David Lee to score the game's first bucket, a sign of good things to follow as the Raptors beat the Knicks 103-95.

The Bosh-Rasho tandem combined for 47 points on 18-for-28 shooting and 18 rebounds, numbers that bode well for a team that seems intent on dumping the ball into the post.

The only negative was Bosh's reaction to New York's constant trapping and double-teaming.

While he has improved to pass out of double teams, Bosh did turn the ball over a game-high five times as New York scored 21 points off of Toronto's miscues.

"Any time I get double-teamed, I have to kick it out and depend on my teammates,'' Bosh said on a night when he poured in a game-high 29 points.

For the eighth game in a row, Nesterovic was able to reach double digits in scoring, netting 18.

There's nothing flashy about Nesterovic, but his professionalism and understanding prompted the Raptors to re-insert him into the starting unit ahead of Andrea Bargnani.

Even when Nesterovic isn't getting touches, he'll put a body on an opponent and could be heard yelling out instructions on the defensive end.

On a team that is almost too quiet and at times, Nesterovic's voice provides a calming presence, reassurance when moments get tense.

"For the past month and a half, Rasho has been playing well,'' head coach Sam Mitchell said. "We have to somehow keep him going."

As T.J. Ford continues to reintroduce himself to the team's starting rotation, the Bosh-Rasho combo looms as a key component with the regular season down to its final 10 games.

Bosh can take bigger defenders away from the basket and has shown an ability to knock down that occasional three-pointer.

Much like they did in Wednesday's momentum-needed win over the Detroit Pistons, the Raptors tried to capitalize on a mismatch.

Against the Pistons, who were missing shooting guard Richard Hamilton, the Raptors were able to play Ford and Jose Calderon for extended stretches.

Against the undersized Knicks, Bosh and Nesterovic were able to flourish.

And unlike the times when Bargnani was starting, the Raptors don't have to run plays for Nesterovic to be effective.

"More minutes,'' Nesterovic neatly summed up when asked to explain his recent surge.

KNICKS DON'T GIVE UP

Even though the Knicks never led at any point, they never showed any signs of quitting, either.

Down by as many as 17 points, the Knicks kept the Raptors scoreless for a period of 4:55 to make things at least interesting, if not compelling.

The loss did officially eliminate the Knicks from the post-season.

"It's disappointing,'' embattled head coach Isiah Thomas said. "We definitely had high hopes coming into the season."

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REPLAY

RARE SIGHTING

In one of those rare sightings, Andrea Bargnani found himself in the paint, where he showed athleticism and quickness in flushing home a miss. On the Knicks' ensuing possession, the seven-foot Bargnani allowed Fred Jones, who gives up eight inches, to haul down an offensive rebound.

DOUBTING THOMAS

As expected, Knicks head coach Isiah Thomas was booed by the ACC faithful during the pre-game introduction. With so much speculation swirling around Manhattan, Thomas arrived in T.O. on the heels of a published report quoting an unnamed player as saying the team has tuned him out. With change looming, last night's visit by Thomas may have been his last.


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