Raps on rescue mission

Andrea Bargnani tires to block Tayshaun Prince (Dave Abel/QMI AGENCY)

Andrea Bargnani tires to block Tayshaun Prince (Dave Abel/QMI AGENCY)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

The Raptors posted a season-high fourth consecutive win yesterday against the Detroit Pistons, though the wheels almost came off against a determined side from the Motor City.

Toronto hung on for a 102-95 victory in front of 19,800 fans at the Air Canada Centre, but the curse of the third quarter continues for the surging Raptors.

They led by 19 at the half, but let the Pistons back into the game in the third, being outscored 28-14 in the frame.

"We knew they were going to come back," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "We settled for jump shots, which we have a habit of doing. We know they have some talent and they started making shots."

Detroit actually climbed to within two late in the third. But thanks to some big efforts late in the fourth quarter by big men Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh, the Raptors managed to hold on for the win and keep the win streak alive. Bosh picked up his NBA-leading 23rd double-double of the season, with 25 points and 16 rebounds, going to the free throw line 14 times, converting nine. He also picked up four points and three rebounds in the final two minutes to seal the deal.

"That shows the leadership of our veteran players," forward Sonny Weems said of the late efforts of Bosh and Bargnani.

The foul-filled game was the longest non-overtime game in franchise history.

After getting off to a rocky start to the season, the Raptors are now only two games under .500, with a much easier schedule in the next couple of months and Triano hoping that his team starts to solidify a playoff position.

"Since that game against Atlanta (on Dec. 2), when we were 7-13, we've been able to go 8-4," Triano said. "We're starting to play a little bit better and starting to grasp the right way to play. We've been better and the schedule has been a little bit easier on us. Now we want to keep building some momentum and create some distance on the teams below us in the standings and close the gap between the teams that are above us."

"We're playing with a little more confidence now and we're getting more guys involved," the coach added. "We're starting to help each other and understand our defensive roles a lot better and, as a result, we get stops, which leads to run-outs, which leads to confidence, and then everything starts rolling."

Unlike last Wednesday's game, when the Raptors destroyed the Pistons in Auburn Hills, Mich., 94-64, Detroit was able to play starters Tayshaun Prince, Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton yesterday. But in the end, the visiting side did not have enough firepower to overcome Toronto's attack.

The Raps also have held their past four opponents to under 100 points and are 11-0 on the season when able to do that -- an NBA best.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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