TORONTO – If Sam Mitchell’s assessment of Sunday’s battle against the Portland Trail Blazers holds true, it may turn out to be one of the Toronto Raptors’ defining moments of the season – the game in which the team grew up.
Chris Bosh had 38 points and 14 rebounds as the Raptors beat the NBA’s hottest team, stealing a 116-109 double-overtime victory over Portland to hand the Blazers just their second loss in 19 games.
“You just have to be proud of them because that was an unbelievable win for us,” said Mitchell, the Raptors’ head coach. “To win like that, I think some of our players grew up today.”
Anthony Parker added 25 points while Jose Calderon finished with 22 points and 10 assists and Carlos Defino had 16 points for the Raptors (20-17), who earned their third straight win.
Brandon Roy scored a career-high 33 points for the Blazers (22-14), but the sophomore guard didn’t have a point in the second overtime period.
The Blazers made the Raptors work for the win, twice snatching away what looked like a sure win with big plays – first a four-point play by Travis Outlaw to end regulation, then a huge three by Roy with two seconds left in the first overtime period.
“That was bad on my nerves, man,” Bosh said, laughing.
The all-star forward, who had to log 55 minutes in the win, said his young team’s performance was a huge learning experience.
“Because we had to scrap so much,” Bosh said. “It was really a true test of will, who wanted to win the most.
“They hit us with some daggers, they hit a four-point play, we get another stop, they get a rebound and Brandon Roy hits a three. Stuff like that happens.
“We did make mistakes down the stretch, but I think it was good for us. Just learning how to play through things. You have to find something in you, you’re not going to have much energy but you have to get it done.”
Outlaw finished with 18 points, and Channing Frye added 16 for the Blazers, who were playing the first contest of a seven-game road trip.
The Raptors had trailed 69-63 heading into the fourth quarter but rallied to lead by four and looked en route to a sure victory before a capacity Air Canada Centre crowd of 19,800 fans.
But rookie Jamario Moon fouled Outlaw on a three-pointer with 16 seconds left, and the Blazers forward made the subsequent free throw to send the game into overtime tied 93-93.
“I think that one play, the foul, I think I grew up from the time I made that foul to the end of the game,” said Moon. “It showed me a lot, when you make a bad play, you have to let it go, and continue to try to make good plays.”
Moon admitted he didn’t want to go back to the bench after the play, but Mitchell, who had been chewing Moon out all game long, told the rookie to simply let it go.
“I was proud of my team because nobody got on (Moon), everyone just patted him on the back and he came back and made a couple of blocks in overtime and got some key rebounds for us,” Mitchell said. “You cannot just love them when they do good, you have to correct them and push them, but we do not throw any players away.”
The two young teams traded baskets through the first overtime, neither leading by more than two points. With the game tied, Calderon drained a three-pointer with nine seconds left to bring the fans to their feet. But Roy quickly quieted the crowd with a three-pointer of his own with two seconds left to send the game into the second overtime period tied 104-104.
Bosh then took over, scoring his team’s first six points.
“He is a load and I think in overtime he wore us down and we tried to double-team him,” Roy said of Bosh. “He is a great young player.”
Added Blazers coach Nate McMillan: “Defensively, we had no answer for Bosh.”
A rare dunk by Parker put the Raptors up 112-109 with 1:22 left. Calderon had a steal and then two free throws to put Toronto up by five points as it cruised to a victory.
“It says a lot about our team with the way regulation ended and the way the first overtime ended to come back,” Parker said. “For us to pull it out twice says a lot about our team.”
The Raptors shot an excellent 48 per cent on the night against a formidable foe, holding Portland to 41 per cent shooting.
“We believed in ourselves today, we fight the whole game, the two overtimes,” Calderon said. “They hit unbelievable shots, but we keep fighting and we win.”
But the performance wasn’t all positive. The Raptors lost another battle of the boards, outrebounded 52-44 by Portland, and gave up too many second-chance points (21-8) to their visitors, especially in the overtime periods.
The Raptors also didn’t get to the free-throw line much until late in the game, making just three-of-six free throws in the first three quarters en route to shooting 18-for-23 stripe.
Andrea Bargnani, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft – five spots ahead of Roy – also had another disappointing outing, finishing with four points and two rebounds, plus three fouls in his 14 lacklustre minutes.
Sparked by 11 first-quarter points from Parker, the Raptors shot 61 per cent in the opening frame. But it wasn’t enough to put any significant distance on the Trail Blazers and Toronto led just 25-24 heading into the second.
Toronto stretched its lead to eight points midway through the second on a three-pointer by Delfino. Parker drained a three-pointer with two seconds left in the half, but it was virtually negated after Jarrett Jack made a three-pointer for Portland at the buzzer, sending Toronto to halftime with a 49-47 lead.
The Raptors shot just 27 per cent in the third and were outscored 22-14. A jumper by Frye gave Portland a six-point lead with just over a minute to go in the quarter, its biggest of the game, as the visitors took a 69-63 advantage into the fourth.
NOTES: The Raptors lost 101-96 to Portland on Dec. 19 as part of their seven-game road trip out west, and in the midst of Portland’s 13-game winning streak. The Raptors went on to lose five of their next seven. . . . The Raptors play Tuesday at Detroit, then are home to host a pair of games Wednesday against Sacramento and Friday versus Atlanta.