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Red-hot Raptors beat Clippers to remain atop Atlantic Division

Feb 4, 2007 - 9:26 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Chris Bosh continues to pilot the Toronto Raptors into unfamiliar territory.

Bosh scored 27 points and reserve T.J. Ford scored nine of his 17 points in the fourth quarter as the red-hot Raptors cruised to a 122-110 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers.

It was the third straight victory and the 12th in the last 16 games for Toronto (25-23), which owns a three-game lead over second-place New Jersey (22-26) in the Atlantic Division. The Nets dropped a 101-99 overtime decision to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

The Raptors have not been two games above the .500 mark this late in a campaign since 2001-02, when they posted a season-ending victory over Cleveland to finish 42-40.

"I'm proud of how my team is playing," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "They're playing with confidence, they're playing together and they're executing. If we do that, we're going to be tough to beat."

A two-time All-Star and a starting forward for the Eastern Conference this season, Bosh shot 10-of-20 from the floor and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line to pace six Raptors in double figures.

"We just try to stay aggressive on the offensive end, and we moved the ball well," Bosh said. "Guys had open shots and knocked them down."

Morris Peterson scored 18 points off the bench, Jorge Garbajosa and Anthony Parker each chipped in 17 points and Jose Calderon added 10 with a season-high 12 assists for Toronto, which shot 59 percent (44-of-75) as a team and never trailed in the contest.

"We're getting open looks and guys are stepping up," Mitchell said. "Jose and T.J. are moving the ball, and Chris is moving the ball. (Garbajosa) and Mo hit some big shots for us."

The point-guard duo of Ford and Calderon combined to dish out 19 of Toronto's 30 assists. Thanks to the unselfish passing, the Raptors shot 70 percent (28-of-40) in the first half, tying a franchise record for shooting percentage in a half.

"We're a better team because we learned to play like a team, find the open guy and make open shots," said Calderon, who is averaging 13.6 points and 8.6 assists in 10 games as a starter. "If we play like we did today, we'll win more games."

"Our point guards are playing great," Peterson added. "Jose is playing great and T.J. came back playing great. It's a great thing - they get everything going."

The Raptors owned a 66-54 halftime advantage and led by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, sweeping the season series from the Clippers for the second time in franchise history. Ford drained a buzzer-beating jumper on December 20 to lift Toronto to a 98-96 triumph in Los Angeles.

"Defensively we must not be very good to let them shoot 58 percent for the game," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said. "They made a lot of tough shots."

The Clippers cut their deficit to eight points four times in the fourth quarter and moved within 106-98 on Shaun Livingston's jumper with 6:07 remaining.

But Ford, who has been bothered by an ankle injury over the last two weeks, converted a pair of free throws 45 seconds later to ignite a decisive 10-4 run capped by Peterson's 3-pointer with 2:40 left.

"We knew they were going to make runs," Bosh said. "We just had to stay relaxed."

"They answered every time we made a run back at them and cut it to single digits," Dunleavy said. "But we gave ourselves a chance."

Cuttino Mobley scored 24 points while Elton Brand collected 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Los Angeles, which lost for just the second time in its last nine contests.

The Clippers finished with six players in double figures and made a season-high 11 3-pointers but shot just 68 percent (21-of-31) from the line.

"We let one get away from us," said Los Angeles guard Sam Cassell, who had 17 points and eight assists. "Give them a lot of credit. They played well, they made shots. Everything we did to try and stop them, they did better."

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