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 lost 13 consecutive 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," Raptor 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 last two seasons.
The Pistons failed to capitalize on Toronto's slow start, struggled for long stretches on offense and got another subpar game from Jerry Stackhouse. Now, they must go into an elimination game Thursday with a roster that lacks the playoff experience of Toronto's.
"Playoff experience is important, but I don't think it's essential," Piston 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."
The Raptors, winning at home for the 10th consecutive 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 made eight of 12 shots, scoring eight points in the fourth quarter, and 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 made only six of 18 field goals and scored 15 points.
"It's been a tough trip coming up here," Stackhouse said.
Although the Raptors made their first shot and then missed their next 12, the Pistons could only go ahead by eight points and Toronto came back and regained the lead before the end of the quarter.