TORONTO — Chris Bosh was having one of those nights: his shot was off, he wasn’t getting to the free-throw line and he found himself in foul trouble for most of the game.
With one clutch jumper, the Raptors’ star not only erased his own struggles, but also ended Toronto’s lengthy losing streak.
Bosh hit the game-winning shot with 2.1 seconds left as the Raptors rallied to beat the Atlanta Hawks 106-105 on Wednesday, halting a run of futility that has put them dangerously close to falling out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto won for the first time in six games, rallying in the fourth quarter of a game that looked like it was Atlanta’s for the taking.
Matched up against Al Horford on the low block as the clock ticked down, Bosh elevated over him and hit a picture-perfect 16-foot fadeaway to the delight of the 18,441 on hand at Air Canada Centre.
Bosh said the shot felt good as soon as it left his hand.
"I shot it with confidence, and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that it (was) going in," said Bosh. "I’m just glad it gave us the go-ahead to win the game."
Jamal Crawford, who had a season-best 33 points off the bench, had a chance to win the game for Atlanta but his hurried three-pointer missed badly as time expired.
Though the stat sheet was no friend to Bosh — he went 6-for-19 from the field, shot just two free throws and finished with five fouls — he knew he was going to take the shot if it wound up in his hands on the final play. Bosh said the decision to play the hero role was an easy one, even despite his struggles.
"It’s not tough at all, because you want to make the next one," said Bosh. "I think every shot after is the one to kind of erase the memory, get the bad taste out of your mouth."
He also reached a personal plateau, becoming the first player to score 10,000 points in a Raptor uniform.
"Something like that is always special," said Bosh. "Just to be the first to do something is always cool."
The win came at a pivotal time for Toronto (33-33), which once sat comfortably in fifth place but is now scrambling to stay ahead of the ninth-place Chicago Bulls. The Hawks (42-24) represent a potential first-round opponent for the Raptors, but head coach Jay Triano said that didn’t make the win any more significant.
"I don’t care who it’s against right now," said Triano. "We wanted and needed a win. Just for morale."
Andrea Bargnani had 22 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Raptors, while DeMar DeRozan added 19 and Hedo Turkoglu had 16. Turkoglu nearly wore the goat horns after his missed free throw left Atlanta with a one-point lead in the final minute, but Toronto recovered the rebound, setting the stage for Bosh’s heroics.
Horford had 18 points and 14 rebounds for the Hawks, who had won four straight and 10 of their previous 13. Mike Bibby added 17 points, while Maurice Evans chipped in 16.
Trailing by three at the half, Atlanta used back-to-back threes from Bibby and Evans — along with some spotty Toronto shooting — to help build an eight-point lead late in the third quarter. Evans added another three in the final minute to put the Hawks up 86-75 entering the fourth.
A Bosh jumper cut the lead to five, but Evans buried a 25-footer to end the Raptors’ run. That kickstarted a 7-0 run, restoring Atlanta’s double-digit advantage.
But the Raptors rallied again and Bargnani’s three with 2:57 remaining pulled them to within four at 101-97. Toronto’s Sonny Weems hit a long jumper to make it a two-point game, and the teams traded baskets before Josh Smith deflected a rebound out of bounds to give Toronto possession with 22.6 seconds left.
"I thought we played pretty steady throughout the ball game," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson. "But coming down the stretch we just unravelled and didn’t make the plays that we needed to make."
Toronto overcame a sluggish start to enjoy a 30-25 lead after one quarter. A Bosh layup early in the second quarter sent him past the 10,000-point plateau, earning him a standing ovation from the crowd. Toronto fed off that energy, with Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack hitting running layups to put the Raptors up by 15.
Crawford followed with a pair of three-pointers, and an Evans three cut the deficit to five. Reggie Evans helped Toronto stem the tide, making a pair of late layups en route to a 59-56 halftime advantage.
Notes: Toronto committed just four turnovers . … Raptors G Antoine Wright sat out with a sore right knee, while the Hawks were without scoring leader Joe Johnson (Achilles’ tendinitis). … Jose Calderon found himself in the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 5 against Chicago. Jack had started the previous 43 games at point guard. … The Hawks dominated Toronto in their previous two meetings, winning both by a combined 53 points. That included a 146-115 drubbing on Dec. 2, Atlanta’s best offensive output since 1993 and the most points the Raptors have allowed all season.