What a difference a week can make! Last week the Toronto Raptors had leads deep into the fourth quarter against Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics only to see wins slip through their fingers. This week it’s like watching a different team because they are using the fourth quarter to thrust a dagger through the heart of their opponents. Tonight Toronto was in a close game heading into the fourth quarter and instead of wilting they turned up the intensity and left the Philly in their dust. The Raptors went on a 16-0 scoring run early in the fourth quarter and at one point were out-scoring Philly 24-6 in the fourth quarter. Toronto continued to apply pressure on Philly and out-scored the 76ers 33-12 in the fourth quarter to escape Philly with their second win in a row.

Toronto had yet another strong game by Chris Bosh (31 points, 7 boards and two blocks) but the story of the game was the way the entire Raptors team played. Toronto shot the ball well (52%), did a good job sharing the rock (29 dimes on 38 field goals) and were able to take care of the ball (only 15 turnovers). An added bonus was the balanced scoring attack that had seven Raptors score in double figures. Charlie Villanueva had another off night shooting the ball but he finished with 8 points and 14 boards.

After being ripped by some of my fellow Raptors Bloggers this week Darrick Martin went for a double-dip against Philly tonight. Yes, you read that right - Martin had 16 points and 12 dimes. His scoring surge was fueled by an outstanding 4 for 6 from behind the arc. Great to see the cagey vet step in and play significant minutes due to Jose Calderon’s heel injury.

Another player that’s stepping up his game this week is rookie Joey Graham. After the big game he had last night he looks to finally be playing with confidence again. Last night he was joking with reporters for the first time since the All-Star break and his relaxed demeanor last night carried over into the game tonight and he had 12 points in the first half. Graham finished the game with 14 points and 3 steals in just 20 minutes of playing time.

Philly on the other hand couldn’t get into a groove all night. Between playing without Allen Iverson and Chris Webber and Kyle Korver battling the flu the Raptors had an easy target tonight. Philly went13 from behind the arc, they couldn’t take care of the ball (they had 20 turnovers) and they went 28-38 from the charity stripe. Pitiful! Toronto on the other hand hit 40% of their three’s, they committed less turnovers (15) and they shot a sizzling 97% from the charity stripe (25 for 26). At one point Toronto had connected on 16 free throws in a row.

Raptors fans got some amusement by a Hoffa sighting. Rafael Araujo was given a chance to play but the youngster’s only contribution to the game was a quick foul that drew the ire of Sam Mitchell. The result? A quick return to the bench to gather more splinters after just four minutes of playing time. I don’t get why the Raptors don’t send the kid down to the D League for the rest of the season. If he’s not going to get playing time in games they may as well send him down for some playing time and the chance to improve his conditioning because after this season he won’t be eligible to play in the D League.


Wed 03/15/06, 12:21 pm EST




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