Gee Wiz! It's a win

LANCE HORNBY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- There is a limit, thankfully, to the Raptors' charitable contributions.

Threatening to cough up a 21-point lead to the Washington Wizards and lose to both doormats in each conference inside of three weeks, the Raptors found enough pluck from Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, with 19 combined fourth-quarter points, coupled with a brutal finish by the home team to hang on 99-93.

Washington had closed as tight as five points, evoking memories of Toronto's December road loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, before it finally sealed its third win in four games.

"They gave us a scare," swingman Jason Kapono said. "But Chris and Andrea made some free throws down the stretch and we're leaving D.C. with a W."

With little energy in the Verizon Center crowd of 13,864, the two clubs often looked like their combined records of 21-47. Certainly the 7-27 Wizards played up to their record, while the rested Raptors turned the ball over 20 times. But coach Jay Triano was full of praise for his heavily taxed nine-man roster, which shot more than 54% for the second straight game.

"It was a gutsy performance to step up with guys out (Jose Calderon, Jermaine O'Neal), guys missing (Jamario Moon) and even the trade (of Hassan Adams before the game) shook the room a bit," Triano said.

Bargnani, looking more and more comfortable as a starter, led the Raps with 25 points and two blocked shots.

"This isn't a one-time thing, he has played very well the last six or seven games," Triano said, though it's clear O'Neal is welcome back any time soon. "He and Chris are familiar with each other now and starting to jel."

Bosh had a huge fourth quarter and matched unscheduled starter Joey Graham with eight rebounds .

"It was the confidence booster we need to get ourselves going back home," said Graham, who slid into Moon's spot. "We have to take care of home-court advantage now (against Memphis and Boston this weekend). We were missing more than a few players, we were missing three starters, but guys stepped up into those roles."

Before the game, Triano grumped that his team had not taken care of little details in the Milwaukee game two nights earlier, in which they'd led by double digits and lost by 10.

"We shot 54%, but didn't do all the little things, boxing out, middle penetration, the things we had been doing well," Triano said. "There were a couple of times (the Bucks) dove on the floor for loose balls and we just reached.

"Maybe it was because we had played back to back, but if that's the excuse, there's not one tonight. It's flipped around."

The Raptors still lost one of those floor scrambles in the first quarter last night, as well as Kapono giving up on a ball he thought was going out of bounds, only to have Javaris Crittenton leap into the scorers' table to keep it alive and Dominic McGuire show equal hustle at the far line to salvage the basket. Early in the fourth quarter there were four consecutive Toronto turnovers, but the Raps did come up with the key stops before things could get out of hand.

Triano was giving Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison of the Wizards lots of respect before and after the game, Jamison for his game-high 32 points.

"They're one of the most dynamic twosomes in the league (sixth in combined scoring), so you knew they'd make a game of it," Triano said. "You can't look at the records and expect to just come in here and think you'll get a win. This is a very good team."

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REPLAY

START FOR JOEY

With Jamario Moon attending the birth of his daughter, Joey Graham made his first start of the year at small forward.

He joined Anthony Parker in snatching five defensive rebounds in the first half to pace the Raptors' early success, though he committed three turnovers in the same span.

SETTING GOALS

Washington interim coach Ed Tapscott, who took over the team when it was 1-10, has broken the rest of the season up into seven-game segments hoping to give his players some attainable short-term goals. Last night's lost moved them to 3-4, their first increment over 500 after one forgettable stretch that was 0-7.

"At times you think it was a bad idea," Tapscott said. "It takes lots of time to get back to equilibrium."

NEXT UP

Tomorrow, 7 p.m., Memphis Grizzlies, TSN, Radio Fan 590.


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