Raps down and out in L.A.

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:45 AM ET

The Raptors have to be reminded sometimes that defence is not just something you put around the flower garden.

They obviously forgot last night, losing a laugher to the Los Angeles Clippers 101-89 at the Staples Center and a once promising six-game, West Coast trip has turned into a nightmare for the 4-4 Raptors, who are now 1-4 on the swing with one leg remaining tonight in Denver.

"Bewildered," said Raptors coach Sam Mitchell when asked why his team playing poorly last night. "I won't be getting any sleep tonight because we have to figure out a way to beat Denver."

The story of the night, played in front of 14,985 fans, was Toronto's reluctance to play defence and the dominance of the Clippers' front court, namely power forward Elton Brand and centre Chris Wilcox, who totally dominated the overmatched Raptors frontcourt.

Brand and Wilcox combined for 33 points and 13 rebounds, while Raptors forward Chris Bosh and starting centre Loren Woods replied with eight points and nine boards.

Wilcox was huge defensively as well, as the 6-foot-10 forward had two huge blocks on Bosh and shooting guard Jalen Rose.

Things became so desperate for coach Mitchell in the third quarter that he dusted off the big Brazilian Rafael Araujo, putting the rookie in the game at centre.

Vince Carter scored 21 points to lead Toronto, including 15 points in the first quarter. Carter's 14 field-goal attempts were a franchise high for a first quarter.

"We played too well to dropped below .500," said Carter, when asked about the important of tonight's game. "The momentum we had coming into the road trip was tremendous, so why not end it on a good note."

The Raptors committed 22 turnovers, leading to 25 points for L.A. and shot 42% from the field while the Clippers shot 53%.

By the fourth quarter, Mitchell also had rookie Pape Sow on the court and might have thrown in team massage therapist Ray Chow if he had an extra uniform handy. Sow did pick up six rebounds in 12 minutes.

Mitchell has been praising his second unit throughout this current six-game trip, but the bench certainly didn't do the job when it came on in relief in the second quarter, shooting 2-for-11 before the starting unit returned.


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