The injury-riddled Toronto Raptors weren't expected to stick with the San Antonio Spurs much less than stick it to them, but they did just that on Wednesday.
Rookie Roko Ukic scored a career-high 22 points as the Raptors shocked the powerhouse Spurs 91-89 in front of 18,909 delirious fans at the Air Canada Centre.
"I really like to play and try to make something happen," Ukic said.
"We like to put him in the screen-roll situation because he is good at getting to the basket," Raptors interim head coach Jay Triano said. "When San Antonio started to switch, he started to attack the bigger guys and he was pretty effective."
Ukic keyed a late burst by Toronto, which transformed a five-point deficit into a two-point triumph.
Trailing 87-82 with 90 seconds left, Raptors guard Anthony Parker hit a three-point basket, but Ukic unwisely committed an open-court foul on Tony Parker and he converted two free throws to restore San Antonio's five-point lead.
On the ensuing possession, Ukic received the ball on the wing, stepped back beyond the arc and nailed a three-pointer with 49 seconds on the clock.
When Tony Parker rang a shot off the rim at one end, Ukic challenged him at the other end, spinning in the key and scoring on a one-handed floater to make it 90-89 Raptors with 20 seconds left.
"I really like those situations when I have the ball on top and I just think of scoring," Ukic said. "I feel pretty comfortable in this situation, much more than, for example, shooting free throws at the end.
"I didn't feel much pressure. I saw the lane was pretty much open and I just tried to go all the way to the basket."
Manu Ginobili of the Spurs tried to bull his way to the basket with eight seconds remaining, but a leaping Jamario Moon forced him to alter the trajectory of his shot and Toronto snared the rebound.
The Spurs were forced to foul Raptors centre Jermaine O'Neal to regain possession, and he sank one of two free throws to make it 91-89 with 6.3 seconds left.
Following a brief timeout, San Antonio put the ball in the hands of Tony Parker, but he tossed up an air-ball as time expired.
It marked Toronto's second win in as many nights and the breakout performance from Ukic, 24, that the Raptors had been waiting for.
"He has been playing pro since he was six years old and he has been collecting a cheque for 20 years now," Raptors shooting guard Jason Kapono joked. "I have been telling him a three-point tip is to pass the ball to me, but he always has the excuse that I'm covered.
"I don't think I am. Thank God he made them because I was going to have to break down film with him."
'They had to play a lot of minutes'
Andrea Bargnani led the Raptors (21-34) with 23 points, while Kapono scored 21 points and Anthony Parker had 10.
O'Neal made his presence felt with seven points, 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
Joey Graham left nine minutes into the contest with a shin contusion, forcing Triano to rely on a six-man unit anchored by Bargnani and Kapono, who played 42 minutes apiece.
"They had to play a lot of minutes, they had to play extra minutes and they played very well," Triano said.
Neither Chris Bosh (sprained right knee) nor Jose Calderon (sore right hamstring) dressed for the Raptors, prompting Triano to start Kapono at shooting guard and Parker at point guard.
"Our goal going into the [NBA all-star] break was to finish strong and with a team effort and we certainly got that," Triano said.
Ginobili led all scorers with 33 points for the Spurs (35-16), winners in 10 of their previous 12 games.
Tony Parker poured in 22 points, followed by Tim Duncan with 20 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists.With files from the Canadian Press