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Shorthanded Raptors hold on against Howard, Magic

Jan 4, 2009 - 10:46 PM TORONTO (Ticker) -- Anthony Parker helped the Toronto Raptors overcome two injured starters and one outstanding effort from Dwight Howard.

Parker scored a season-best 26 points, one shy of his career high, as the shorthanded Raptors held on for a 108-102 victory Sunday over the Magic.

Chris Bosh added 23 points and 11 rebounds for Toronto, which was without center Jermaine O'Neal and point guard Jose Calderon.

"We are a good team," Bosh said. "We have to play like it and make sure we bring it every night. We have to bring the same intensity, the same focus."

O'Neal missed his third straight game with a sore right knee while Calderon, who leads the Eastern Conference in assists, was sidelined by a strained right hamstring.

But despite not having O'Neal and Calderon, who have combined to average over 27 points per game this season, the Raptors still managed to hand the Southeast Conference-leading Magic their second loss in the last 11 games.

"They are a good team without those guys," Howard said. "(Bosh) came out strong at the end, but they have a solid team without two of their best players."

Toronto's effort was especially impressive considering the exploits of Howard, who matched a career high with 39 points. The All-Star center shot 14-of-19 from the floor and made 11-of-18 free throws, eclipsing the 30-point mark for the first time since November 29.

But Howard's offensive outburst was offset by Parker, who delivered his highest single-game point total since a 27-point outing vs. Chicago on April 8, 2007.

"I've been struggling shooting, so the law of percentages say that eventually it's going to even out," Parker said. "I've missed so much, so one of these days was due. But I'm really happy that it happened."

The Raptors also received boosts from center Andrea Bargnani (18 points) and guard Will Solomon (11 points), who started in place of O'Neal and Calderon. Seldom-used reserve Roko Ukic chipped in 12 points and made a key shot that gave the Raptors some late breathing room.

"I think Andrea's performance was a little underrated when you look at the stats," Raptors interim head coach Jay Triano said. "A lot of the time, we used him to take (Howard) away from the inside.

"Will was doing a great job, and Roko just had it going. He was distributing the basketball very well."

Rashard Lewis drilled a 3-pointer to give Orlando a 101-99 lead with 3:15 left.

But Bosh was fouled on the next two possessions, sinking four straight free throws to give Toronto the lead for good at 103-101. Howard was fouled on the next possession but made only one free throw, trimming the deficit to 103-102 with 2:13 remaining.

After Orlando's Hedo Turkoglu missed a jumper with 38 seconds left, Ukic sank a short runner to make it 105-102.

J.J. Redick and Turkoglu both missed 3-pointers for Orlando, and Bosh made three free throws in the final 31 seconds to provide the final margin.

"We knew it was going to go right down to the wire, and it was going to be one of those games," Triano said. "It was a little bit of a character builder for us. I just think the last two games at home, we have been playing with a lot of confidence."

Lewis scored 20 points and Jameer Nelson added 15 for the Magic, who shot 17-of-24 from the free-throw line.

All seven of those misses came from Howard, who entered shooting just 56.7 percent from the charity stripe this season.

"It's not good enough," Orlando head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "Sixty percent from the free-throw line makes it tough. We have a tremendous advantage down there, they couldn't guard him at all.

"But they get to the fourth quarter they just fouled. We get 1-of-2, and they'd come back and make 2-of-2."