Raps avert crisis, for now

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

Jermaine O'Neal presented Jay Triano with the game ball, symbolic of the Canadian's first NBA win, but the Raptors coach felt like slicing it up seven or eight ways.

Had the Raptors not shown signs of life last night, then severe doubts would have been raised on whether last week's coaching change went far enough.

"I'm happy to get the win for the guys in the room who have had to put up with changes in the last week," Triano said, basking in the 101-88 win over the Indiana Pacers.

Toronto had dropped five in a row and the Pacers were in town, a chance for Jermaine O'Neal to strut against his old team and to grade more of last summer's blockbuster trade that saw the Raps choose the Jose Calderon Highway over the T.J. Ford Overpass.

Crisis averted, for the moment. Calderon bested Ford. Jason Kapono showed Triano what he is capable of as a starter. And a week of installing a new system paid off. Kapono had a season-high and game-high 25 points.

"We talked about it on the bench in Cleveland," Kapono said. "It sucks when you come to work and play hard and keep on goin' home with L's, especially losing by 20.

"The pride of the team was down. The coach was in a tough spot, thrown into the fire, but he's got a good head on his shoulders. This was the first time everyone stayed on track, did what we were supposed to do and it turned into a win."

STARTING GIG

Kapono was one of the players whose name has been tossed around in trade rumours should the losing not get reversed. But with Anthony Parker hobbled by a sprained ankle, Kapono could be back at shooting guard tomorrow night in New Jersey.

Parker, another name in the trade mix, ended his run of 103 consecutive games, while Jamario Moon was re-inserted into the starting lineup, replacing the slumping Andrea Bargnani, who was called upon when O'Neal found early foul trouble, but was 0-for-4 from the floor and had four rebounds in almost 23 minutes.

"I thought we were a little lethargic in Cleveland chasing the basketball off the glass," Triano said of making Bargnani a sub. "When the second group went in, Jamario seemed to be one of the guys tracking the ball, who wanted to go get it. For now, Andrea coming off the bench will be a plus for us.

Losing six in a row would have been their longest streak since November of 2006, but after a spate of tough opponents that began on the road with the Lakers, Nuggets and Jazz, the Raptors beat the Central Division cellar-dwellers.

Calderon played 38 minutes to Ford's 26 and, most impressively, had 14 assists. Chris Bosh was breathing easier, too, nailing 21 points and 10 rebounds.

"There are a few things we have to tweak, but I'm just glad to win a game," Bosh said.

Bosh said he tried to put the six-player trade with Indiana in the past, though he was going against former teammates in Ford and Rasho Nesterovic.

"I feel we won the trade, even if we don't play Indiana this season," he said. "We have a good veteran in J.O, who is getting better day by day."

After Kapono hit for five points midway through the second quarter, everyone started to get into a groove, starting with Joey Graham and Moon getting nice baskets and ending with a Bosh bucket at the halftime buzzer.

"Losing can be contagious, but so can winning," O'Neal said. "We want to learn this new style. That's a monkey off of (Triano's back). Getting blown out by 20 and having to listen to (fans) for two quarters is hurtful and everyone in this room hears it."


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