CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 10 (Ticker) -- It took a half before the Toronto Raptors realized they had much more firepower than the Charlotte Bobcats.

Rookie Charlie Villanueva scored 24 points and the Raptors capitalized on a hot-shooting third quarter en route to an 88-73 victory over the Bobcats.

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Already shorthanded with Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace and Sean May sidelined, the Bobcats played without their starting backcourt in Brevin Knight (knee) and Raymond Felton (toe). Rookie Kevin Burleson got his first career start at point guard in Knight's place.

"We didn't get anything easy and it's a lot to ask for Kevin (Burleson) to be put in that situation," Charlotte coach Bernie Bickerstaff said. "We were completely discombobulated. I understand why. When you take two point guards out in terms of Raymond (Felton) and Brevin (Knight), that's probably the best we could do in that situation. We put Kevin in a heck of a position and he gave it a try."

Despite being injury-depleted, the Bobcats recovered from an awful first quarter in which they made just 3-of-18 shots and scored just 11 points to take a 37-36 lead into halftime.

"(Coach Sam Mitchell) wasn't happy," Villanueva said. "He was angry with the way we played. We can't let that happen. We weren't making shots in the second and that affected us on defense and we can't let that happen."

However, the Raptors took control in the third quarter, using a 20-2 run to start the period to take the lead for good. They did so with some blistering shooting, making their first 11 shots of the period and going nearly 10 minutes before their first miss.

"It started on the defensive end," Raptors forward Morris Peterson said. "I got a couple of stops. I was able to get guys involved and, after that we were able to get a comfortable lead. A team like Charlotte always plays hard and never gives up. Whenever we would make a run, we knew we had to turn it up defensively."

Villanueva scored 12 points in the quarter to lead the charge. He finished 11-of-18 from the floor.

"We just buckled down and played great defense," Villanueva said. "It also helps when you miss just two shots in the quarter. Guys were making shots and that's how we should always be playing."

The Raptors made 13-of-15 shots overall in the quarter that ended with them holding a 70-54 lead.

"In the third quarter, we executed about as well as we could," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "Chris (Bosh) probably didn't have his best game, and we turned the ball over a lot, but we still came in and got a win against a team that has been playing pretty well. It's a road win and you never complain about winning a game."

Mike James added 18 points and eight assists and All-Star Chris Bosh contributed 16 and 10 rebounds for the Raptors, who had lost their last two games in overtime following a three-game winning streak.

The Raptors shot 49 percent (34-of-70) to overcome 23 turnovers.

Matt Carroll scored a career-high 26 points to lead the Bobcats, who failed in their bid to win four straight games for the first time in their two-year history.

"I knew that I had to be more aggressive without Brevin (Knight) and Raymond (Felton) in the game," Carroll said. "So I think my teammates did a good job of getting me the ball. I've been waiting to get into that shooting rhythm. I felt like I haven't had it too many times this year, but tonight, I just got into a little groove."

Charlotte shot a franchise-low 32 percent (21-of-66).

"We lost both of our point guards at tone time, and that will hurt any team," Bobcats forward Melvin Ely said. "We're still supposed to go out there and play hard. KB (Kevin Burleson) did a great job for being just thrown out to the wolves, and we have another one tomorrow. We're not down on this loss. We'll take it, but we won't accept it. We've got a game tomorrow and we can possibly win that one."