Raps claw way to victory

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan goes to the basket against Atlanta Hawks' Joe Smith. (REUTERS/Mark...

Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan goes to the basket against Atlanta Hawks' Joe Smith. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Now that is how you come back from an 0-4 West Coast road trip.

Scratching and clawing their way for every basket and to deny every basket possible, the Raptors pulled off the kind of season-altering win their indifferent play on the road had made a necessity with a 106-105 nail-biter.

Losers of nine of their previous 10, the Raptors didnít just beat the Atlanta Hawks. They beat an Atlanta Hawks team that had been pushed to the brink of frustration.

Normally, that is something this Raptors club is not capable of. But on Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre, they found a way.

It didnít matter that Jamal Crawford spent the first three quarters looking like the Raptors had absolutely no answer for him. They cooled him off in the fourth quarter.

The odds on favourite to win the NBAís sixth man of the year finished the night with a game-high 33 points but, in the fourth quarter, when his team needed a basket, Crawford managed all of four points as Sonny Weems refused to let him continue in the same vein.

Crawford was scoring from all areas of the court earlier in the game. If the Raptors gave him even a inch on the perimeter, he was killing them with three-pointers. If they got up on him, Crawford put it on the floor and drove past them for easy buckets. And you couldnít blame any one Raptor, either.

Weems, Demar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack, Jose Calderon ó they all had a shot at trying to contain the guy and no one could until Weems took it upon himself to finish the job.

Chris Bosh, who two games ago demanded more from every player in a Raptors uniform, struggled for most of the night. But when they needed him most, Bosh was there. He scored just six points in the first three quarters but had eight in the fourth.

Among those eight was a game-winner that was all Bosh. With 14 seconds left and the Hawks up one, the Raptors inbounded under the visitorsí basket. The ball went out to Jack who cleared out the right side for Bosh. It was Bosh and Al Horford, mano-a-mano. Bosh hit him with a fake and when Horford took a step back, Bosh calmly knocked down the jumper.

The Hawks had 2.1 seconds left, but the Raptors defended the inbounds perfectly and the off-balance jumper from Crawford failed to hit the rim.

When Crawford started to cool off in the fourth quarter, Horford picked up the slack scoring 10 of his 18 points in the final period.

Bosh may have hit the game winner, but every Raptor deserved credit in this one.

From DeRozan to Andrea Bargnani they drove the lane relentlessly. They battled for rebounds as they havenít done since early February.

In the span of a few minutes in the second quarter, they even managed to get under the skin of, first, Mike Bibby and then Josh Smith.

DeRozan was as fearless as he has been all season, getting into the paint and either scoring at the rim or being sent to the line with fouls. He finished the night with 19 points, three fewer than Bargnani who, after a poor night in Portland when LaMarcus Aldridge toyed with him, came back strong on both ends of the floor with 22 points and 11 rebounds, both team highs.

More than anything, a game like this convinced the Raptors they can get back to that run when they were playing such solid basketball through December and January.

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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