It's hard to say what Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell dreads most: Taking his home-loving team on the road or answering questions about it.
The Raptors, who face the Philadelphia 76ers tonight at the Wachovia Center, are a non-intimidating 2-17 on the road this season, having lost 10 in a row away from the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre.
So you can forgive Mitchell for being a little short after practice yesterday when a media horde launched a series of road-related inquiries.
"Yeah, yeah," Mitchell said, when a couple of reporters asked him why his team was so ineffective on the road. "We've talked about that for like three days now. Anybody got any original questions?"
Not really. The fact that the Raptors have such a dismal record on the road, while going a very respectable 12-5 at home, cries for an answer, a theory ... anything.
"Guys, look," Mitchell said. "The road is tough, good teams in our league go on the road and get beat.
"Sometimes you guys make it seem like it's just a matter of doing this and doing that. It's not that. When you're at home, you have a comfort level, a different mindset, you have confidence. Most teams in this league win at home. The schedule is set to give the home team an advantage. We're not any different from a lot of teams. We've been close on the road, it's not like we've laid eggs on the road."
On the three-game West Coast road swing over the Christmas week against the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors, the Raptors were in every game until late. The Raptors chalked up those losses to brief, but costly, mental lapses.
"We're in the game and then all of a sudden, opposing teams' defence tightens up, we're not hitting shots, we're turning the ball over and we're allowing them to get second-chance shots and allowing them to beat us to loose balls," point guard Rafer Alston said. "We have to try to win the hustle game, not just in the first seven, eight minutes of the game but the last seven, eight minutes."
CAN'T LET UP
Mitchell said losing on the road has nothing to do with unfamiliar baskets, lighting or locker rooms.
"No, no, no," he said. "The baskets are all 10 feet. All the arenas are well lit. It's just being at home, being comfortable. Don't you sleep better at home? Well some of you probably do, some of you probably don't. I know I do."