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Inside the NBA

Three Points

February 11, 2007|PAUL NETTER

WARMING IN CANADA

The Toronto Raptors have become relevant again. The Atlantic Division leaders (27-24), coming off their best January (10-5) since 2001-02, haven't been over .500 this late since that season, when they finished 42-40 and made their last playoff appearance.

Toronto, which finished 27-55 last season, has benefited from a strong point-guard combo of T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon and the steady emergence of rookie forward Andrea Bargnani. But the Raptors took off with the return of forward Chris Bosh, who missed the last 12 games of December because of a knee injury.

Bosh, averaging 20.4 points before his injury, has averaged 25.7 since returning.

FOUL AT THE LINE

Though the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James has lived up to his nickname, he is not the king of free-throw shooting.

Since making 75.4% as a rookie, he has made 75.0% in 2004-05, 73.8% last season and 68.1% this season, including only 57.5% in the last 10 games.

James actually is about as good as he was in high school, when he made 67.7% -- with a best of 79.7% as a freshman and a worst of 59.3% as a junior.

He also ranks far behind fellow most-valuable-player candidates Dirk Nowitzki (90%), Steve Nash (88%), Kobe Bryant (86%) and Gilbert Arenas (84%).

ARE THEY VULNERABLE?

As good as the Phoenix Suns are at 39-11, critics can point to this: a 3-6 record against Dallas, San Antonio, Utah and Houston -- the other teams in the Western Conference's top five.

Three of the losses have come against the Jazz, including both games in Phoenix.

-- PAUL NETTER

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