- The Washington Times - Monday, January 8, 2007

TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors proved yesterday they can hang with even the best offenses in the NBA when healthy.

Led by the finally healthy Chris Bosh and boosted by the return of injured starters T.J. Ford and Jorge Garbajosa, the Atlantic Division-leading Raptors beat the Washington Wizards 116-111 at Air Canada Centre.

“They can really spread you out,” Wizards coach Eddie Jordan said. “They’ve got a good roster and a good team. They are capable of winning their division. They were really motivated today, and they were just the better team today. And we really couldn’t handle Chris Bosh one-on-one today.”

Bosh, who missed 12 games with a knee injury before returning Wednesday, had 24 points and 15 rebounds for Toronto (15-19), which won its second game in a row. The second-leading vote-getter among Eastern Conference forwards behind Cleveland’s LeBron James, Bosh also demonstrated his versatility with five assists.

Ford finished with 20 points for the Raptors after missing three straight games with a sprained right ankle. Garbajosa, who had missed the last two games with a strained right calf, added seven points and six rebounds.

Gilbert Arenas led the Wizards with a game-high 33 points, doing most of his damage from the free throw line, where he was 17-for-21. But Arenas, who finished the game shooting just 7-for-19 from the field, had only two of Washington’s 19 assists.

The Raptors, however, had 27 assists on their 47 field goals, led for almost the entire game and held a 22-point advantage with seven minutes to play. Toronto also shot 51.1 percent from the field.

Caron Butler scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Antawn Jamison notched a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds for the Wizards, who shot 43.8 percent.

Every time the Wizards made a run, the Raptors seemed to have an answer. Trailing by 15 points more than midway through the second quarter, Washington cut the lead to 57-51 at halftime. But with a little more than six minutes gone by in the third quarter, the Raptors restored their lead to 69-58.

After back-to-back baskets from Jamison cut the Raptors’ lead to 73-66, Toronto used an 11-4 run in the final 3:25 of the third quarter to take an 84-70 lead into the fourth.

“They caught on fire again,” Arenas said. “We got hot at the end, but by then we were too far behind. We made a game out of it. We didn’t play bad. But the lead was just too big.”

Toronto took its largest lead of the game at 101-79 when reserve Joey Graham (15 points) scored on a tip-in in the fourth.

And while the Wizards did rally — they scored 30 of their 41 fourth-quarter points after Graham’s bucket and managed to trim the lead to five points — the Raptors seemed to have control of the game late.

“Bosh was a handful tonight,” Butler said. “He seemed to make the good decisions tonight. When we doubled him he hit the open man. You have to tip your hat off to them, and I can’t wait to see them again.”

Washington lost for only the second time in 18 games this season in which Arenas has scored at least 30 points.

The Wizards, who don’t play again until a home game against Chicago on Wednesday, still have won 15 of their last 20 games.

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