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Tip In: Riding Space Mountain

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For those of us fortunate enough to have visited DisneyWorld/DisneyLand/EuroDisney....whatever......perhaps the ride that everyone remembers most is found in the mini SkyDome shaped building that plays host to a roller coaster ride that is completely in the dark. As a passenger, you think it's going to be a good ride but you're really not sure what twists and turns lay ahead, you expect the unexpected and just go along for the ride....and hope for the best. Why are we talking about a theme park ride? Because if you watch Mike James play you get the exact same feelings. Last night was the perfect example as the Raptors came away with a huge victory over a disgruntled Pacers squad winning 99-97 with James and Bosh leading the way, with solid support from the likes of CV Smooth and MoP.

It was the first time since the break that we here at RapsHQ were able to get together over a holiday beverage and watch the Raps and, for most of the game, we saw a team that couldn't get over the hump, always fighting to stay within 10 points, but finding it difficult to climb right back into the game. Then something happened (actually it happened this summer when Babcock dealt for him) and that thing was Mike James and his SAVAGE crossover. A few late drives and some MONSTER MoP D and suddenly we MAY, have the season's turning point. In the last 14 games the Raps are 7-7, which is solid and the next four games are all winnable. I won't sit here and say that we are playoff bound, or even .500 bound, but the disgusting displays and losing streaks witnessed earlier this year could become a distant memory. Ball is all confidence....let's see if the Raps can catch a wave and ride it out.

As much as some of the guys stepped up though it was the same sad story for the likes of Jalen and Hoffa. With Joey G twisting his knee last night and Calderon with a bad ankle Jalen is going to get some more minutes and needs to be like Stella and get his groove back. Hoffa on the other hand just looked bad and the quickest he moved was when the Raps took the lead and he jumped up to cheer. Babcock last night was asked about Pape Sow (who had 24 boards in his last game) and whether the big squad will be inviting him back anytime soon.....here's hoping because Hoffa simply is not developping.

Quick Hits:

- Danny Granger....a RapsHQ favorite during the draft process looks like a player. Just not much of one when matched up against the Big Bosh Man.

- The injury bug is hitting from all angles on almost every team.....Raps are no exception. But suddenly playing the vets and winning some games? Babcock must be smiling....values are going up.

- CV Smooth....nice game. Excuse me sir...can I have some more?

- Eric Williams didn't exactly do a lot with the minutes he was given...but it was still nice to see him getting some shine.

- Fred Jones....this guys can fill it up, but when the Pacers finally deal Artest they better get someone else that can.

CHAPMAN'S THOUGHTS

- Watching Jalen Rose last night conjured up one of my favourite Marv Albert quotes. When John Starks was suffering through his abysmal shooting performance in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals, Albert said "At some point, you just have to stop shooting."

- Has anyone noticed that Morris Peterson has stepped up his game on the road this season?

- I'm really trying to give Hoffa the benefit of the doubt, but.....

- Was there really no one better than Darrick Martin available to be the third string point guard? I'm as big a UCLA fan as you'll find and I'm wondering what he brings to the table.

- Players who have fallen off of late: Sarunas Jasikevicius (Yes, I had to look up the spelling)

- Is Anthony Johnson's favourite album of 2005 "I Am Bird Now" by Antony and the Johnsons???

- I wish all of the loyal RaptorsHQ.com readers and safe and Happy New Year and all of the best in 2006!

FRANCHISE'S BREAKDOWN

What a huge win for Toronto. This was a completely winnable game based on the Pacers' injuries and the way the Raptors match up on paper with Indiana. And even after being down by as many as 16, the Raps kept fighting to finally come out on top. A game like this HAS to be a huge confidence booster for the squad and my hat's off to Sam Mitchell. He did a great job last night moving players in and out, even showing confidence in Bonner at crunch time. Bonner still might not be the league's quickest player side to side, but he fought hard to get position on the Indiana bigs and prevent easy rebounds.

Rebounding in fact was one of the game's telling stories. A quick glance at the game stats reveals many reasons the Raptors took this contest. They outrebounded Indiana 44-43, shot 47.5% from the field as opposed to the Pacers' 42.5% and actually outscored Indiana in the paint. Numbers like these usually assure a win and it was great to see the Raptors' defensive intensity, especially in crunch time, in holding Indy's gunners to such a low field goal percentage.

Bosh, Mr. Space Mountain Mike James, and CV Smooth all played exceptionally well but this was once again a team effort. Even when the Raptors got down, the team looked composed and had good body language. It's imperative to carry this effort over to their next game against an Atlanta team looking for revenge.