for this game

Bosh, first-place Raptors stay hot vs. undermanned Nets

Feb 15, 2007 - 5:30 AM TORONTO (Ticker) -- With the New Jersey Nets lacking firepower, Chris Bosh and the Toronto Raptors were hitting on all cylinders.

Bosh had 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists and T.J. Ford added 17 points and eight assists as the Raptors used balanced scoring en route to a 120-109 victory over the injury-ravaged Nets.

Winners of seven of its last eight games, Toronto (29-24) opened up a 4 1/2-game lead over New Jersey in the Atlantic Division. The surprising Raptors are over .500 this late in the season for the first time since the 2001-2002 campaign - the last time the franchise qualified for the playoffs.

"We knew if (the Nets) could win this ballgame, that would have given them a little more confidence and that probably would have push-started them in the second half of the season," Bosh said. "If they win a game and we lose a game, they're right there with us. It was really important for us to come out here and make a statement tonight."

New Jersey guard Vince Carter, a former Raptor, is not worried about the standings.

"I am not worried about what the Raptors are doing," Carter said. "We just have to keep fighting, and hopefully, we can just maintain until our guys get back."

Already reeling from losing forward Richard Jefferson (ankle) and center Nenad Krstic (ACL tear), the Nets on Tuesday lost point guard Jason Kidd, who will be sidelined until after the All-Star break with lower back problems. New Jersey has lost both games with Kidd sidelined.

"Without a doubt (Kidd's injury) impacts us," New Jersey coach Lawrence Frank said. "We struggled to contain their point guards, but we can't make excuses. The third quarter, the way we evolved it, the five-point swing there, (Raptors point guard Jose) Calderon gets the two, we turned it over, (Raptors rookie forward Andrea) Bargnani hits the three."

With the Nets missing three of their top four scorers, the Raptors took over, using seven double-digit scorers and dishing out 29 assists. But it was Bosh who led the way with yet another impressive performance.

"I think we were just moving the basketball," Toronto coach Sam Mitchell said. "Calderon and Ford are doing an unbelievable job of distributing the ball. Part of our practice, we get a lot of shots, I mean we shoot a lot of shots."

Calderon believes passing becomes contagious.

"That says everything," Calderon said of seven double-digit scorers. "We pass the ball, try and find the wide-open guy and if somebody is open, pass him the ball, because next time it is going to be you."

Named a starter for the Eastern Conference in this weekend's All-Star game, the 6-10 Bosh has been one of the most dominant low-post players in the league this season.

On Wednesday, he showed his versatility, shooting 8-of-15 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the line. But his ability to pass out of double-teams led to uncontested shots for the Raptors, who shot a blistering 59 percent (43-73) from the field and 10-of-18 on 3-pointers.

"We came in with a lot of focus and we didn't want to look past today," Bosh said. "We enjoy winning basketball games, and I think this team is figuring out what it takes to win."

Making his second career start in place of Kidd, rookie Marcus Williams scored 19 points and Carter added 17 and 10 assists for New Jersey, which shot 51 percent (41-of-81).

Booed lustily all night by Raptors fans, Carter was impressed by the new-look Toronto squad.

"They do a great job of spreading the floor," Carter said. "One through five can shoot the ball. When you have a point guard like Ford who can get into the lane, they look and pride themselves on sucking guys in, to get shots for their guys."

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