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Calderon has 22 points, 16 assists in Raptors' win over New Orleans

TORONTO — Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors weren't about to spenda trans-Atlantic flight brooding about another game they let slip away.

TORONTO — Jose Calderon and the Toronto Raptors weren't about to spend a trans-Atlantic flight brooding about another game they let slip away.

Calderon poured in 22 points and doled out 16 assists as the Raptors held on through yet another shaky fourth quarter to beat the New Orleans Hornets 96-90 on Tuesday for just their fourth victory in their last 24 games.

"(Calderon) was exceptional," said Hornets coach Monty Williams. "He made play after play after play against us. He's just a veteran guard, he's way above average. He makes great decisions, can shoot the ball and he just made winning plays tonight."

The victory came a couple of hours before the team boarded an overnight flight to London, where they'll face the New Jersey Nets in a pair of games.

"We didn't want to sit on this long flight with an L under our belt, so it felt good," Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said.

DeRozan added 17 points for Toronto (17-44) while Andrea Bargnani — back after missing a game with flu-like symptoms — and Sonny Weems had 14 apiece. James Johnson added 13, and Amir Johnson had 10 rebounds and a season-high seven blocks to go with eight points.

David West scored 19 points to top New Orleans (35-27), winners of just three of their last 12 games. Carl Landry had 17 points, former Raptors Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli scored 17 and 13 respectively, and Trevor Ariza finished with 10.

The Raptors have had trouble holding on to leads this season, coughing up a 19-point advantage en route to a 114-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday, and Tuesday's game threatened to be the same old story.

The Raptors led for most of the night, going ahead by as much as 17 points early in the third quarter. But in what's become an all-too-familiar pattern for Toronto, the Raptors started to let their big lead slip from their grasp, and the Hornets pulled within two points on a basket by Landry with 5:48 left in the game, eliciting groans from the Air Canada Centre crowd of 14,704.

But back-to-back long jumpers from Bargnani and Calderon put Toronto back up by six, and then after a pair of West free throws, Calderon ran the length of the floor scoring on the fast break to give the Raptors another six-point cushion with 3:07 to go.

"It was kind of like I owed this team a little bit, I played really bad down there, they kept me to no points or something," said Calderon, who had zero points in an 85-81 loss in New Orleans on Jan. 17. "I wanted to be aggressive from the beginning and I was feeling more comfortable with the game going on."

Belinelli connected on a three-pointer to cut Toronto's advantage to five points with a minute-and-a-half to go, but Amir Johnson responded with a monstrous dunk on the next time down the court to bring the crowd to its feet. Johnson wasn't done, blocking a pair of shots in the final 1:17 to secure the victory for Toronto.

"Just being active, knowing that we needed to get stops down the stretch," Johnson said. "It was also helpful to have Ed (Davis) in the game with me, he was another shot blocker, if he went up to block it and he missed it, I came right behind him and got the blocked shot."

Calderon shot 7-for-10 on the night, and was strong on the defensive end, holding Hornets all-star guard Chris Paul to just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting.

"Jose did an excellent job, both ends of the floor," said Raptors coach Jay Triano. "It comes down to the point guard being able to fight through and get underneath and get over screens and I thought he did a really good job of that."

The Raptors shot 49 per cent on the night to the Hornets' 44, and held a narrow 38-36 advantage on the boards.

"We have to flush the toilet on this one and get ready for (Wednesday, when the Hornets play at New York)," Williams said.

The Raptors were quick to depart the ACC after the game, headed for London where they'll face the Nets —including former head coach Sam Mitchell, an assistant with New Jersey — at the O2 Arena, the basketball venue for the 2012 London Olympics. The games on Friday and Saturday will be the first-ever held in Europe in the regular season.

The Raptors had the hot hand in the early going. They shot 53 per cent in the first quarter, and Weems drained a three-pointer with 55 seconds left to put the Raptors up 27-20 heading into the second.

The Raptors continued to find the net in the second, shooting 70 per cent in the quarter. The game was tied 37-37 with six minutes left in the half but Toronto ended the frame on a 20-5 run for a 57-42 advantage at halftime.

Toronto finally went cold in the third, shooting just 29 per cent. New Orleans took advantage, cutting the Raptors' lead to 72-62 with a quarter left to play.

NOTES: The game marked the return of former Raptors Belinelli, Jack, and David Anderson, who were all traded this season in a pair of transactions. . . The Hornets were playing the first of a five-game road trip. . . Following their trip to London, the Raptors are back home for games against Utah, Indiana and Charlotte.

 
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