Bosh gives Raps a marquee performance

Updated: April 25, 2007, 1:22 AM ET
By Adam Proteau | Special to ESPN.com

TORONTO -- It's amazing how 44:34 of Chris Bosh can turn around a game -- and even a playoff series.

Canada's next top model athlete -- who missed most of the first half in Toronto's Game 1 loss due to foul trouble -- was far and away the best player on the court during the Raptors' 89-83 victory over New Jersey in Game 2 Tuesday at Air Canada Centre.

Every time Toronto stumbled, Bosh grabbed the game by the ankles, held it upside down, and shook it relentlessly until all the goodies fell into his lap. The stats sheet will show he finished the night with 25 points and 13 rebounds, but his impact was much greater than mere numbers.

Simply, Bosh delivered the confidence and floor space his teammates needed to excel, and that gave the gathered crowd of 20,239 the joy they'd been waiting on for what felt like decades. He was a one-man Tony Robbins motivation clinic, and he silenced his cynics with the most powerful game of his burgeoning young career.

Bosh could be credited for the new and improved "VC sucks!" chants directed at Vince Carter, which seemed louder and lustier than they did in Game 1.

He was part of Anthony Parker 's much-improved stroke, which looked smoother than a Vegas con job.

He aided Rasho Nesterovic in his impersonation of a loose ball magnet.

Most importantly, he helped best pal T.J. Ford overcome his own Game 1 struggles and contribute significantly to the win with 13 points and six assists.

Hell, Bosh brought so much extra self-esteem Tuesday, even newly-crowned coach of the year Sam Mitchell seemed especially willing to give Joey Graham the hook when the inconsistent swingman missed a shot or three.

The night didn't begin entirely as planned for the Raptors, who at times looked the way they did in Game 1, when their feet were encased in New Jersey-quality cement shoes.

Toronto's offense sputtered in the first quarter of Game 2, as they shot just 22.7 percent from the field. Yet they held the Nets to a playoff franchise low (for both teams) of just 12 points in the first 12 minutes, and just 38.9 percent shooting in the first half. If the Raptors hadn't have shot even worse (30.8 percent) over that span, they might have run away with the game before the dog show came out at intermission.

Speaking of pooches, Carter may have been New Jersey's top scorer with 19 points, but as in Game 1, his numbers were bigger than his impact. The former Raptor (and Donald Trump to Toronto's Rosie O'Donnell) jacked up 24 shots to get those 19 points, and for the second straight game had the most personal fouls (4) of any Net.

To be fair, Bosh wasn't the chief reason for Carter's woes. That honor goes to Parker, who not only finished with 26 points and four steals (both game-highs), but provided the outside shooting the Raptors desperately missed a game earlier.

But that's not to say Bosh wasn't a force on defense. In fact, what was arguably the turning point of Game 2 came when he absolutely destroyed Richard Jefferson with a block early in the third quarter. The joint erupted, and when Parker drained a 3-pointer on the subsequent play, it got so loud you could've sworn the old Maple Leafs enshrined on banners in the rafters were covering their ears.

Like so many times during the regular season, Toronto bent without breaking. And the tenacity that was absent without leave for them in Game 1 was back with a re-vengeance. The Raptors were swinging hands whenever a Net had a ball in the paint. They were fighting around screens. They lunged to make the extra, correct pass.

And every time the Nets or fate foisted something nasty on them, Toronto snarled back an answer in return.

When Jason Kidd tied the game 49-49 with a 3-pointer, Ford made an excellent pass to Peterson to put the Raptors up three again. After Andrea Bargnani 's buzzer-beater as time expired in the third was judged not to have beaten said buzzer, the Raptors started the fourth on a 7-0 run.

Ah, yes, the fourth quarter. That's the one where Bosh had 11 points. That's when Ford added seven. That's when the two Texans, on whose shoulders Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo is staking much of the franchise's future, took over.

You could tell drawing even in the series couldn't have meant more to those two. When the game was finally in hand, Bosh lifted up his arms and made two fists, soaking in the fans' adulation. And when he and Ford finished their separate postgame radio and TV interviews, they embraced with a naked emotion that caused the remaining people in the stands to burst out in applause.

It was only one game, but to Bosh, Ford and the rest of the Raptors, it was everything. And if Bosh keeps willing Toronto to victory, it will be remembered as the first of many "everything" games for a franchise that hasn't had enough of them.

Adam Proteau is a writer for the The Hockey News. He can be reached at aproteau@thehockeynews.com.

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