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Graham steps in for Peterson, leads Raptors past Cavs

Nov 23, 2006 - 2:40 AM TORONTO (Ticker) -- When Morris Peterson sat down for the first time in nearly five years, Joey Graham stepped up.

Graham matched a season high with 16 points and fueled a second-half surge as the Toronto Raptors ended a six-game slide with a 95-87 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Chris Bosh had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Raptors, who survived 30 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists by LeBron James as they won for the first time since November 8 vs. Philadelphia.

For the first time since February 12, 2002, the Raptors were without Peterson. The swingman sat out with a sore elbow, ending his consecutive games streak at 371, the longest current in the NBA.

"It was different for Mo; he was kind of upset a little bit," Bosh said. "Mo's a tough player and (if) it was up to him, he would have played tonight but he did what was best for the team."

That meant more time for Graham, and the second-year forward made the most of it. In 28 minutes off the bench, he made 4-of-11 shots and 8-of-9 free throws while grabbing eight rebounds.

"We don't look at it as a loss of Mo Pete," Graham said. "Coach just tells us that when you get your opportunity, you've got to step up and perform. So when my number was called, I just tried to go in there and mix it up a little bit and make the best of it."

Graham closed the third quarter with a three-point play, pulling Toronto within 75-73. He opened the final period with four free throws, giving the Raptors the lead for good.

"Joey played really well," Bosh said. "He made the right play. He made cuts to the basket, he shot his shot when he was open and he knocked down free throws. Joey played an outstanding game tonight."

A 3-pointer by Fred Jones and a bucket by Bosh capped a 12-0 surge and gave Toronto an 82-75 advantage. Two more free throws by Graham extended the margin to 88-79 with 6:11 to play.

Cleveland, which erased a 19-point first-quarter deficit, got no closer than six points thereafter.

"In the stretch you've got to try and minimize as many errors as possible and that's what we were able to do at the end," Graham said.

Jones scored 14 points and T.J. Ford and Anthony Parker added 11 apiece for Toronto, which shot 46 percent (32-of-70) and drained 28-of-34 free throws.

"During the last six games, especially on the road, we were not able to keep our composure down the stretch," Jones said. "But tonight we were fed up with losing and giving up leads and we were able to sustain it."

Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Damon Jones scored 12 points each for the Cavaliers, who shot under 40 percent (37-of-94) - including 5-of-25 from the arc - and made just 8-of-12 free throws.

One of just four Eastern Conference teams who began Wednesday with winning records, the Cavaliers (8-4) have had problems with teams with losing records. Their first three losses were to Charlotte, Atlanta and Washington, all Southeast Division teams at .500 or worse.

"It's about going out and executing offensively and defensively and making things happen," James said. "It's not about trying to bury someone or get a killer instinct. It's just about playing."

The Raptors shot a searing 74 percent (14-of-19) in the first quarter and opened a 33-14 lead late in the period before the Cavaliers rallied behind Jones, who has been providing a spark of late.

The reserve guard had a pair of 3-pointers, a jumper and layup in a 19-2 run, tying it at 47-47 and drawing boos from the Air Canada Centre crowd with a shot from the arc at the 2:56 mark.

"In the first quarter we couldn't stay in front of anybody and they got to the rim and got what they wanted," Cavs coach Mike Brown said. "As the game went along we picked it up defensively and gave ourselves a chance to win. But that was a big deficit to fight back and get ourselves into the game and then trying to close the game."






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