Raptors hold off Howard, Magic
The Toronto Raptors rarely made it to the free-throw line Wednesday, but they still managed to extend their winning streak to a season-high five games with a 99-95 victory at Orlando.
Chris Bosh posted 24 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots as the Raptors won a see-saw tussle with the Magic in which the lead changed hands 21 times.
Toronto overcame an alarming 41-18 disparity in free throws that favoured Orlando.
"We're playing great defence," Raptors forward Shawn Marion said. "This is a great roll for us and we have to keep moving forward."
Jose Calderon contributed 21 points and eight assists for the Raptors (29-45), who sit six games out of a playoff spot.
"We're in a great situation," Calderon said. "We're just playing.
"We have got five [wins] in a row now and we have got to keep working until the last day."
Shawn Marion poured in 17 points and pulled down 15 rebounds, while Andrea Bargnani had 16 points before fouling out.
"It is not over," Bosh said. "It is not over yet.
"We're going to keep playing and see what happens. We still have a chance."
"We're taking it one game at a time," Marion pointed out.
Dwight Howard had 30 points and nine rebounds and Hedo Turkoglu had 19 points as the Magic (55-18) suffered just their eighth loss in 37 games at Amway Arena this season.
Howard led all scorers, but the Raptors held him to five points in the fourth.
Rashard Lewis tallied 18 points for Orlando, followed by Rafer Alston with 12.
"It is unfortunate to go out and lose a game we probably should win and dominate," Magic reserve guard Anthony Johnson said. "We let it get away from us down the stretch."
Orlando not only had a six-game winning streak halted, but the Southeast Division champions were bumped to third place in the Eastern Conference standings by the Boston Celtics, who beat the Charlotte Bobcats 111-109 in overtime.
"We have been taking a lot of things for granted," Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy said. "We have got a real tough stretch coming up here and, if we continue to play like this, it could get real ugly so, hopefully, it will serve as a wake-up call."
Calderon takes control
Calderon scored five consecutive points in the third quarter and combined with Anthony Parker to set up Marion for back-to-back dunks that made it 74-67 with 2:02 left.
But Calderon didn't stop there, netting six straight points on a looping jump shot, a free throw and a trey as the Raptors increased their lead to 80-69 with 65 seconds on the clock.
But the Magic reached into their bag of tricks in the fourth quarter and rallied to within one before Bosh nailed two free throws — his first attempts on the night — to make it 92-89 Raptors with 2:12 remaining.
Lewis responded with a one-hand slam, but Calderon restored Toronto's three-point edge on a one-handed lay-in through traffic.
Howard scored on a hook shot heading into the final minute, but Bosh traded free throws with Turkoglu and hit a long jump shot to put the Raptors ahead 98-95 with 23 seconds left.
Lewis misfired on a three-point attempt that would have tied it, forcing the Magic to foul and send Raptors to the line.
"We have gotten away with this kind of play — just playing the fourth quarter — too many times and our guys keep thinking they can bail out the game that way and then they don't," Van Gundy said.
Marion missed a pair of potentially damaging free throws in the final seconds, but teammate Joey Graham recovered the rebound on the second and completed the scoring with two of his own.
"I can't believe I missed two free throws in a row. That's bull ----," the affable Marion said, mouthing the last word in jest.
With files from the Canadian Press