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  Mon, December 22, 2003


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The Last Word
The manner in which the Raptors lost to the Magic could leave those fans on hand crying in their beer. Too bad they would have to do so outside the ACC.

By KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

With 37 seconds left, they started running for the exits as if somebody had yelled, "Fire!" And why not?

It was bad enough for this sellout crowd of 19,800 to have been held hostage by a comatose Raptors team for more than two hours of garbage basketball. Imagine how utterly unacceptable this aromatic effort seemed without any adult beverages to dull the senses.

If ever there was an NBA game that could only have been appreciated after gulping down a barrel-full of whatever brand of happy juice gets you through the pain, this was it.

Of course, the Air Canada Centre was dry as a bone, and will remain so for the rest of the week after Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment got its bejeweled wrist slapped over liquor violations.

The customers waited until the last minute to escape (presumably to their favourite watering hole) because, for some inexplicable reason, the Raptors still were within shouting distance of the Orlando Magic in the latter stages. Which tells you just how eminently beatable Orlando was.

With 79 seconds left in the game, Jalen Rose tossed down a three-ball to cut Orlando's lead to six points, but the Raptors defence couldn't get any stops down the stretch. That lack of defensive will captured the essence of this entire game perfectly.

Forced to foul in the dying seconds, the Raptors never got that close again, losing 104-93.

"I thought our play was uninspired," head coach Kevin O'Neill said. "I didn't think we competed like we can. You're not going to win many NBA games with that kind of effort."

Effort is where it's at for these Raptors. When it's there, they have a chance. When it's not, they have nowhere to turn.

In this kind of circumstance, some coaches might have emptied the bench, tired of seeing rotation players go through the motions. But at game's end, even after this kind of putrid performance, only two non-starters -- Mo Peterson and Lonny Baxter -- logged double-digit minutes. All told, the bench accounted for a grand total of 51 minutes and nine points on a day when you might have expected O'Neill to search a little deeper for some energy.

Eight of those minutes came from guard Milt Palacio, largely at the expense of Alvin Williams, who was arguably Toronto's best player with 18 points and eight assists. Williams played only five minutes in the final quarter, much of it spent in a not-so-desperate attempt to catch up. His banishment to the bench was a curious move.

"I wanted to play Milt a little bit, just to see if he could give us some energy," said O'Neill, whose logic would seem a bit askew.

He was less obtuse about yet another clear message that his team's lack of size and experience inside is this team's Achilles heel. Chris Bosh is a wonderful talent with an equally impressive temperament. If this kid is handled correctly, he can be a monster player in this league. But this is too much, too soon and O'Neill knows it.

BEAT UP

"Inside, we're getting beat up," O'Neill said. "Chris and Lonny (Baxter) are young guys and they're forced to play (against) veteran guys night in and night out. When they have to do that, it's going to take a toll on those guys in terms not just of fatigue, but of a lot of things."

If there's anything the Raptors can't afford it is to have a Chris Bosh thrown to the wolves before his time.

Especially in a cruddy game such as the one yesterday. It's enough to drive you to drink.

Perrier, anyone?









Do you like the new-look Raptors heading into the 2013-14 NBA season?
  Yes, new GM made great moves
  No, they will still be a terrible team
  Unsure what to make of it


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