Raps treat their fans

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

This was a Halloween treat the Raptors wish they could drop into their fans' loot bags every night of the home schedule.

Struggling against the unorthodox run-and-gun Golden State Warriors and a poor shooting performance from big-money man Jermaine O'Neal, they hung in through an intense fourth quarter, nearly won it at the buzzer and then rode eight straight points for a 112-108 overtime win.

A festive crowd of 19,800 lapped it up, sensing its team is capable of big things in this NBA season. The Raptors back court and Andrea Bargnani made up for O'Neal's drought and the new guy did his part with three big blocks. Point guard Jose Calderon had 16 points and 13 assists, guard Anthony Parker 23 had points.

"These kind of wins lead to great character," O'Neal said. "If you're having a bad night, you have to support everyone else."

What O'Neal lacked up front -- 2-for-10 and five points overall -- he made up for on defence, while Bargnani had 19 points and had an overtime block for three on the night.

"I'm just proud of them all," coach Sam Mitchell said. "Every time we needed a stop on defence, we got it. They had a size advantage (Golden State stuck with a big lineup most of the night), we just sucked it up.

"Since Chris Bosh came back from the Olympics, his mindset has been defence and he just challenged everyone tonight."

The Raptors, who want to get back to the 30 home-win territory of a couple of years ago, brought themselves to a franchise home record mark of 259-259 with the victory.Heading into Milwaukee tonight, they have a chance to go to 3-0 for the first since 2004-05.

They did look weak on the boards, outrebounded 17-6 on offence, but chipped away at Golden State's second-half lead before Calderon and Bosh hooked up to give them a one-point lead with 43 seconds to go.

O'Neal's final block of the night would've been the difference, except it went right to Warriors' Al Harrington, who coolly sank a three-pointer. Bosh struggled at the foul line until sinking both with 15 seconds to tie it and another pair in OT to finish with a game-high 31 points.

The Raptors thought they caught a break at the end of regulation when Corey Maggette fell attempting the game-winner and wit 7-10ths of a second and Bargnani inbounding, Parker's bid to win it and break 20 points rimmed out. But the Raps were all business in the extra period.

"I'm really proud of Andrea (19 points)," Mitchell said. "He had a tough game in Philadelphia and was very quiet today. But he worked (on defence) through the summer and got to apply it tonight."

After being in an early fog early in the season opener in Philly, the Raptors looked to be on the same page from the tipoff.

All eyes were on the bench to carry the momentum through much of the second quarter with O'Neal the only starter on the floor. Taking their cue from O'Neal's monster slapdown of a driving Brandon Wright, which snapped the crowd to attention, and a couple of Bargnani dunks, the Raps opened a 12-point lead before the Warriors' 17-4 run.

"We didn't want people going home disappointed, especially on Halloween," Bosh said.

O'Neal was taken aback by the reception he received and wished he could've made a bigger impression.

"I underestimated the crowd," O'Neal said. "They were so deep and pumped. I haven't played in front of a home crowd like that for three or four years."

Harrington led the 0-2 Warriors with 26 points.

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REPLAY

OPENING GUNS

Following a brief address to the crowd by Chris Bosh, thanking the fans for their support, the 2008-09 Raptors were officially introduced with a video that featured the team riding around in a '60s Lincoln convertible.

Newcomer Jermaine O'Neal and Bosh earned the loudest ovations from the crowd.

HIGH PRAISE

The Warriors, who were awful for the first four minutes of overtime, credited Bosh as being the difference-maker.

"Towards the end of the game, Chris Bosh just took over, playing like the all-star he is," said Stephen Jackson, who had 19 points for Golden State.

"He made plays and knocked down his free throws and there wasn't too much we could do."


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