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Raptors not extinct just yet

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2002

TORONTO -- The Toronto Raptors, a team that had every excuse to quit long ago, have pushed the Detroit Pistons to a deciding Game 5.

Avoiding an end to their season for the second time in three days, the Raptors found another way to win without Vince Carter.

Keon Clark had 19 points and 16 rebounds and Morris Peterson scored a career playoff-high 20 points as Toronto beat Detroit 89-83 Monday night in Game 4 of their first-round series.

The Raptors dropped 13 straight games after the All-Star break, lost Carter to season-ending knee surgery and then fell behind 2-0 in this best-of-five series. But with April about to turn into May, they've managed to keep going.

''This team has shown a lot of heart. Even when we get down, we never say die. Even when other people give up on us, we keep fighting. That's what it's all about,'' Raptors forward Jerome Williams said.

The Raptors have shown the Pistons they're no pushovers despite the absence of their best player, and something about win-or-go home games seems to bring out the best in them. Toronto is 5-1 when facing elimination over the past two seasons.

The Pistons failed to capitalize on Toronto's slow start, struggled for long stretches on offense and got another sub-par game from Jerry Stackhouse. Now, they must go into an elimination game with a roster that lacks the playoff experience of Toronto's.

''Playoff experience is important, but I don't think it's essential,'' Pistons coach Rick Carlisle said. ''I think our guys have learned a lot in the last four games, and this next game is what basketball is all about -- it's a one-game season.

''We've got to play a whale of a game Thursday to beat those guys because they are an excellent team.''

The Raptors, winning at home for the 10th straight time, took the lead for good in the second quarter and held off every Detroit run.

The Pistons found a way to get the ball out of Antonio Davis' hands after he hurt them so much in Game 3, but the Raptors had plenty of other options. Alvin Williams had 15 points and nine assists. Peterson shot 8-for-12, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter, while Clark had 15 points and 13 rebounds by halftime.

Detroit, meanwhile, looked to reserves Corliss Williamson and Jon Barry for points in the fourth quarter as Stackhouse shot 6-for-18 and scored 15 points.

''It's been a tough trip coming up here. This is a tough series. They definitely took care of their business at home now it's time to go back and hopefully use our home court as an advantage to us,'' Stackhouse said.

Kings 91, Jazz 86

SALT LAKE CITY -- Peja Stojakovic broke out of a shooting slump with 30 points, and Chris Webber scored 23 as the Sacramento Kings advanced to the Western Conference semifinals with a victory over the Utah Jazz.

The Kings, seeded first in the West after winning 61 regular-season games, will be home Saturday against Dallas for Game 1 of the conference semifinals after eliminating Utah 3-1.

Vlade Divac, who predicted the Jazz were ''done'' after Sacramento's victory in Game 1, took a big step toward backing up his claim when he hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:29 to play, giving the Kings an 87-81 lead.

Karl Malone scored 14 points but had only three rebounds, and he uncharacteristically missed two free throws with 1:22 remaining after Divac put Sacramento ahead by six.

John Stockton scored 12 points and had nine assists but the Jazz hurt themselves with 21 turnovers, including six in the fourth quarter that stymied several attempts to get back in it after they erased a nine-point margin.

Doug Christie added 12 points for Sacramento, which moved into the second round for the second straight season. A year ago, the Kings were swept in four games by the Los Angeles Lakers.



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