As healing moments go it was short and to the point.
Toronto Raptors head coach Jay Triano and Hedo Turkoglu crossed paths briefly before game time, the message simple. "Be ready to play," said Triano.
But what the Raptors (36-37) needed more than fuzzy feelings and rapprochement was a win and they got it by grinding out an ugly one against the Charlotte Bobcats 103-101, halting a three-game losing streak and restoring their lead over the idle Chicago Bulls to a full game for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.
Before the game the conversation surrounded Turkoglu's benching against Miami on Sunday - the first time Turkoglu hadn't started a game he was dressed to play in four seasons. Triano confirmed that Turkoglu had been benched for disciplinary reasons following his night out in Toronto on Friday while missing games and practices because of a stomach virus.
He also said he was in no rush to return Turkoglu to the starting unit where Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems have held down the spots reserved for Turkoglu and DeMar DeRozen .
"It depends how we do," said Triano. "I thought the guys where were starting have been giving us pretty good energy and a real focus on the defensive end. The teams we've face recently that are in the playoffs, that's the way they've been playing and we need to find a way to play that way as well and for the most part we've done that and we want to keep that momentum going."
For his part, Turkoglu claimed no hard feelings: "I respect their decisions," he said before the game. "I respect it the whole year long."
Last night the Raptors did their talking on the floor for one of the few times during their post-all-star break swoon that had seen them lose 13 of 17 before last night.
Turkoglu finally checked in with just under two minutes left in the first quarter and sparked the Raptors with eight second- quarter points, his first shot a deep triple from about five feet in front of Triano's seat on the Raptors bench.
But among their many woes of late has been finishing games. Toronto shot just 31.5 per cent combined in the fourth in losses to Denver and Miami, both without Turkoglu on the floor.
Last night they started the fourth trailing 78-72 but took their first lead since the first quarter a minute later helped by a pair of quick assists from Turkoglu on baskets by Jarrett Jack and DeRozan, and he was on the floor when the Raptors appeared to take control of the game, getting consecutive three-point plays at the three-minute mark to go up by seven points.
But the Raptors offence stalled out again down the stretch, and Turkoglu was no particular help, missing a late three-pointer and then turning the ball over by stepping out of bounds with 70 seconds to play and Toronto nursing a two-point lead.
But this time their defence stiffened as Charlotte failed to score a field goal until a Tyson Chandler dunk with 20 seconds left, but in the meantime the Raptors made enough crucial free throws - though Weems didn't help matters by bricking a pair with 13 seconds to play that would have iced the game - and were able to force a turnover by Charlotte in the final seconds as the Bobcats tried to push the game into overtime.
Turkoglu finished with 11 points and three assists in 28 minutes, while the Raptors were led by Chris Bosh, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds, with support from Wright who had 15 points and six rebounds. Toronto shot 50.6 per cent from the floor to Charlotte's 46.4 in the win.
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