Unstoppable force

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

CHARLOTTE -- From a morning pep talk to his 14-point fourth-quarter rally, Chris Bosh did everything for the Raptors except pilot the evening flight to Boston.

But the encouraging part of yesterday's 89-79 win over the Charlotte Bobcats was how everyone pitched in, especially on defence and in the wake of another quiet offensive game from Jermaine O'Neal.

"We had started out with three straight wins and we didn't want to stretch that to three straight losses," said forward Jamario Moon, who joined Andrea Bargnani with strong games at both ends of the court. "Our captain gave us a pre-game speech and it motivated us. We stuck to our game."

The Raptors trailed by four points after three quarters, then Bosh exploded. The all-star out scored the whole Charlotte roster 14-12 in the fourth quarter en route to his game-high 30 points and season-high 15 rebounds. Toronto suddenly looked like a team ready to take on the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics tonight.

"I think we just had to recognize the situation we were in," said Bosh, whose 19th point in the game was the 7,000th of his career. "We just had to get back to our style of basketball.

"We had stopped thinking about perfection. That takes practice. We don't let things discourage us."

O'Neal, Bosh's front-court partner, had looked a little better in a 7-for-10 night in a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Friday, but he flubbed a couple of easy shots among his 0-for-5 performance yesterday. O'Neal did contribute with nine rebounds and a blocked shot.

His struggles gave the chance for Bargnani to get valuable playing time in the second half. The big man scored 18 points and led Toronto with three blocks. His 18 points were one shy of his season's high.

"Andrea's defence was just great," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said of the sometimes inconsistent seven-foot Italian. "He was getting his feet set for shots."

Mitchell said that Charlotte's 40% shooting in the first half was a telltale sign the Raps were doing their homework on defence and they needed only to apply themselves at the other end.

"They all made the game easy for Chris," said Mitchell, who took a technical foul early in the game for yapping about a foul on his star.

"He had four or five lay-ups he didn't have to work for. Chris was rolling toward the basket and we found him."

Point guard Jose Calderon was very adept with a couple of one-hop laser passes through traffic to Bosh. And when Calderon took a rest during his 13-point, seven assist afternoon, Will Solomon was there to run the show.

"I just wanted to come in and keep the flow going," Solomon said. "It's just about me understanding coach Mitchell and the Raptors' concept."

Charlotte led by 11 at one stage and the Raptors weren't getting any breaks from the officials with some marginal calls. However, with little energy in the Time Warner Cable Arena (an announced crowd of 12,111) there was little incentive to put a spike through the visitors.

"We just took what they gave us and they opened up," a grateful Moon said. "The coach put Will in the game to take some pressure off of Jose and that's what he did."

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

Coach Sam Mitchell heaped praise on Hall of Famer Larry Brown for coming back to coach the Charlotte Bobcats at age 68. Mitchell played for Brown with the Indiana Pacers from 1993-95.

"I'm not surprised he's still doing it, as long as you still have the passion," said the 45-year-old Mitchell, who can't imagine himself stalking the sidelines at Brown's age. "Does he still watch game film? Yes, but does he watch a lot? No. There's not much that people do that will surprise him."

NICE TOUCH

In case fans in Charlotte wondered why the Raptors coaching staff was wearing poppies yesterday, the team's public relations staff included an explanation of the Canadian Remembrance Day tradition in the press notes, along with the verses of John McCrae's poem In Flanders Fields.


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