Shot down

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

WINNIPEG -- Brad Pitt sightings have been all the rage here, as the Hollywood heartthrob has touched down in this neck of the woods to shoot a movie.

Meanwhile, at the MTS Centre, the Portland Trail Blazers were shooting the lights out against the Raptors.

Who knew Winnipeg is where all the action is?

Toronto's pre-season record dropped to 2-5 last night as the Trail Blazers held on for a 105-98 victory, shooting 59% from the field, while Toronto shot 45%, in front of an enthusiastic crowd of 10,900.

Jalen Rose led the Toronto attack with 21 points and six assists while Darius Miles had 20 for Portland.

As has been the case throughout the pre-season, Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell continued to give his two rookie forwards, Charlie Villanueva and Joey Graham, major minutes and that's not going to change, so he's going to need a ton of patience, not to mention a vat of Maalox to get through the rest of the pre-season without melting down. But no matter what, Mitchell is not about to cut down their playing time just for the sake of a pre-season win.

"I mean, (Portland's) rookies didn't even get the chance to touch the floor (last night). So, it's tough," Mitchell said. "But my thinking is, if we're going to take advantage of the fact that these games don't count, then you've got to let those guys play. And hopefully, it accelerates their learning curve."

Last night, Villanueva and Graham had another strong game, scoring 19 and 16 points respectively, while pulling in five rebounds each, although Villanueva also had four turnovers and five fouls. Rookie guard Jose Calderon didn't get much of anything going, managing a single assist in nine minutes.

Needless to say, Villanueva is thrilled to be given a ton of playing time, even if the team has won only two pre-season games.

"It's definitely a bonus," Villanueva said. "That's the only way we're going to learn, when we're out there.

"I came into a good situation," he added. "I just have to make the most out of it now.

"(With) all young players there's highs and lows," added Mitchell, who gave Calderon an earful in the second quarter after the Spanish team captain missed a defensive assignment.

The Trail Blazers shot 42% from the three-point line. For the first time in a while, the Raptors actually out-rebounded an opponent, 35-32. Toronto guard Mike James shot 6-for-17 from the field. Chris Bosh had a sub-par game, scoring just five points with seven boards in 37 minutes.

The Blazers held a 52-46 lead at the half, shooting 63% from the field. The Raptors trailed by as much as 10 early in the third quarter but fought back to take a 59-58 lead with 4:47 left.

The Raptors last visited Winnipeg on Oct. 21, 1995, a 98-77 pre-season victory over the defunct Vancouver Grizzlies. The high scorer for Toronto in that game was Alvin Robertson with 20, while Damon Stoudamire had 14 and eight assists.


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