Raps blow it again

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:21 AM ET

Mathematically, the Raptors are still alive. But in reality, this team is all but dead.

The Raptors had a glorious opportunity to take a step closer to a playoff spot last night but fell flat on their faces.

With the Boston Celtics losing to Portland, the Raps could have climbed to within 21/2 games of the final playoff position in the Eastern Conference.

Instead, Toronto came up with a lacklustre performance against the overachieving Golden State Warriors (33-41), losing 85-78 in front of 17,116 frustrated fans at the Air Canada Centre, to remain 31/2 out. The loss was the team's fifth in a row, dropping to 14 games below .500.

For a club fighting for a playoff spot, the Raptors didn't appear overly motivated. There was a distinct lack of anger on the court and, at times, coach Kevin O'Neill look perplexed, even a bit sad, as he watched it unfold.

"I think we owe K.O. (O'Neill) better than we put out there," Jalen Rose said. "We should show K.O. that we really want to win for him. We didn't do that (last night). We haven't done that the last five games. He deserves better."

The Raptors have eight games left and will need to win seven to have any chance of qualifying for the post-season. But getting on any kind of winning streak will be an almost impossible task for this sad-sack club. Of the eight games remaining, six will be against opponents with a .500 or better record. Two of their remaining games are against the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers (54-20). The Raps also face the very tough Detroit Pistons (47-27) twice. On top of that, the Raptors don't appear to want to win all that badly.

22 POINTS

Vince Carter led the Toronto charge with 22 points.

Rookie centre Chris Bosh picked up his 11th double-double of the season with 13 points and 10 boards, while power forward Donyell Marshall had 16 rebounds, but only managed to contribute four points, shooting a dismal 2-11 from the field. Toronto shot 40% while Golden State managed 45%.

"We talk about the playoffs (but) we're not playing like we want to get there," said Carter, who became angry when asked if the team has stopped playing hard for O'Neill. "We're not laying down trying to lose games.

"I'm not questioning anybody's effort because I think guys are out here trying to win, but it's just not enough. We need more. We've got to get it going, or this is going to be a long summer."

Third-year guard Jason Richardson had a big game for the visitors, scoring 25 points while pulling in nine rebounds. Veteran guard Avery Johnson came off the bench to contribute 13, while Erick Dampier picked up 14 boards.

The booing began in earnest with just over a minute to go and hit a crescendo when Golden State centre Adonal Foyle scored on a rebound to put the visiting team ahead by 10.

There was about a 10-minute break in the action with just under three minutes remaining when Dampier sprained his left ankle. He is expected to miss the rest of the season.

The Raptors are in Indiana tomorrow night.


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