Raps seeking redemption

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:44 AM ET

The last time the Raptors were in the Magic kingdom, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson kicked them out the front gate and ended their season without so much as a pair of souvenir mouse ears.

But it's a new year, with a new-look Toronto team that wants to win in Orlando tonight for a number of reasons:

- Avenge last year's five-game first-round playoff defeat when it failed three times at Amway Arena.

"We won't have problems with intensity," assured Chris Bosh, who led the Raptors in points in the final three games of that series.

- Test its taller starting five against a team that also boasts some skyscrapers in Howard, Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu. The Magic are 7-3 this season.

"We can see just how well it works against a taller team," said Jermaine O'Neal, who joined Bosh and new 'small' forward Andrea Bargnani to decimate the average-sized Miami Heat on Sunday. Bargnani replaced Jamario Moon with excellent results.

"I played well, but it was good that the rest of the team could help me on defence," Bargnani said of his speed and positioning without the ball.

- Give Will Solomon another run at point guard after his NBA career-best game on Sunday in place of Jose Calderon, who spent a fifth day getting treated for a strained hamstring.

- Guarantee a split in this quickie Florida road trip that wraps up tomorrow in Miami.

Bosh thinks the Raptors are better-equipped to bash around beneath the post against the Magic, especially against the 265-pound, but athletically gifted, Howard.

"We have six guys around seven feet with more fives (big men) to give them with Kris Humphries," Bosh said. "Jermaine will keep (Howard) off of me a bit. I can wrestle, but not for two-minute possessions. Jermaine (in the 260-pound range himself) is built better for that than I am.

"Rashard will make you work, but I have to make him play defence, try and wear him down."

Howard still is just 22, the youngest NBA rebounding champ in history.

Toronto coach Sam Mitchell was not at all encouraged that the Charlotte Bobcats held Howard to four free throws and seven rebounds when he fouled out on Sunday, feeling that the top-10 scorer likely will take his frustrations out on the Raptors tonight.

"We can't rely on that happening again," Mitchell said. "He's a load to deal with, then you have Turkoglu and Lewis, who can penetrate and shoot threes."

Nelson erased Toronto's supposed advantage at point guard in that playoff series last season, outplaying both Calderon and T.J. Ford as the Magic won 4-1.


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