Toronto 100, Minnesota 97

TORONTO, Dec. 27 (AP) -- T.J. Ford has the Toronto Raptors in first place in the Atlantic Division, even without Chris Bosh.

Ford scored 28 points and Anthony Parker added 19 to lead Toronto to a 100-97 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

The Raptors are 6-4 without Bosh (sore left knee), their leading scorer. He isn't expected back until Jan. 3 when Toronto hosts Phoenix.

``With Chris being out I think the team really depends on me,'' Ford said. ``They are looking for me to put up points and take the shots and continue to put pressure on the defense. Right now I'm just in a groove.''

Toronto is 8-3 at home, where it will play four of its next five.

The Raptors returned home after going 2-2 on a West Coast trip as Ford averaged 20 points and 9.3 assists. Ford had seven assists and finished 12-for-18 from the field against Minnesota.

``Just look at what Ford did the last couple of weeks on the West Coast. He's torched everybody he's gone up against. I mean, you can't coach speed, that's something that he's blessed with,'' Minnesota coach Dwane Casey said.

The Raptors acquired Ford from Milwaukee after new general manager Bryan Colangelo declined to re-sign Mike James in the offseason.

James had a chance to tie the score with 8.2 seconds left after he was fouled on a 3-pointer, but missed one of his three free throws.

Kevin Garnett then missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it in the final seconds.

James said Ford had a solid game. They work out together in Houston during the summer.

``T.J. played well. He came out aggressive and never let up,'' James said.

James was booed when he was introduced before the game.

``I thought it was cute,'' James said, smiling.

Garnett had 24 points and James 20 for the Timberwolves, who are 0-5 against Toronto since former Minnesota player Sam Mitchell became coach of the Raptors.

Minnesota's Randy Foye said his team couldn't contain Ford.

``It's like he's running in circles,'' Foye said. ``When you think he's trying to find a seam to pass it, he'll pull up and shoot a fadeaway jump shot, so it's tough to guard him.''

After Ford's jumper gave Toronto a 95-91 lead with 29.1 seconds left, he took a charge and the game became a free-throw contest for Toronto.

Parker had a chance to give the Raptors a six-point lead with 25.6 seconds remaining, but he missed both free-throw attempts.

After Foye made a fast-break layup to trim Toronto's lead to two, Jose Calderon made one of two free throws for the Raptors to make it 96-93 with 18.9 seconds left.

James' quick layup cut Toronto's lead to one, but Ford made two free throws to give Toronto a 98-95 lead.

Ford fouled James as he attempted a 3-pointer, but James couldn't tie it from the foul line. Parker made two free throws to make it 100-97 with 7.7 seconds left, and Garnett missed a 3-pointer.

Parker's fadeaway jumper with 9:13 left in the fourth gave Toronto its first lead since the first quarter.

Notes: James is having an inconsistent season. ``I've played good a few, played bad a few, but I started this way in Toronto last year,'' said James, who averaged a career-high 20.3 points and 5.8 assists last season with the Raptors.


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