When three out of five starters lay an egg, you know the coach is going to be in a foul mood afterwards.
Particularly when you are playing Shaquille O'Neal.
Raptors point guard Rafer Alston and power forward Chris Bosh certainly came to play against O'Neal and the Miami Heat last night. Unfortunately, the three other starters -- Eric Williams, Morris Peterson and rookie centre Rafael Araujo -- struggled big-time as the Raps lost 111-96, only their second defeat at the Air Canada Centre in their past dozen games. The loss dropped the Raptors' record to 18-25.
Peterson, Williams and Araujo, who was given the thankless task of guarding the man-mountain O'Neal for much of the night, combined for 13 points and shot 5-for-16 from the field. Worse than that, Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell felt that his starting unit did not contribute enough defensively.
"We have other guys that can score, but that unit has to play better on defence," Mitchell said of his starters. "It's tough to beat a team when they're given a lot of open jump shots."
Bosh, on the other hand, picked up 27 points and seven rebounds while Alston had 29 and eight assists -- both career-best point totals.
Mitchell threw all of his big men at O'Neal: Araujo, Loren Woods, Donyell Marshall and Aaron Williams -- sort of containment by committee -- but the big man was almost unstoppable. O'Neal picked up 33 points and 18 rebounds and would have done more damage if his free-throw shooting was better. O'Neal went to the line 20 times last night, converting just seven attempts.
The Raps tied a season-high by committing 32 personal fouls.
Another problem for the Raptors was their rebounding, or lack thereof. The Heat pulled in 51 to Toronto's 40. The Raps also shot 38% from the field while Miami was 53%.
The 19,800 faithful didn't have a lot to cheer about until late in the third quarter. With the Raps trailing by double figures, Heat forward Eddie Jones, who had 21 points, made a spectacular block of a Peterson layup on a fast break. Seconds later, Jalen Rose laid a bodycheck on Heat guard Keyon Dooling, forcing a turnover. No foul was called.
Rose, meanwhile, had another good game off the bench, scoring 13 points.
"No disrespect to their team, but this loss was definitely self-inflicted," Rose said. "They carried basically a 15- to 20-point lead the whole game and we never got stops."
Case in point was Jones nailing a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, to put Miami ahead 61-46.
Miami's young point guard, Dwyane Wade, had a double-double with 16 points and 10 assists before fouling out with 2:57 left.
Mitchell had a running feud going on with the three officials all night, mainly because of the all the calls going to O'Neal, and the fact the Toronto was nailed with three lane violation fouls.