Playoff hopes hit hard

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:05 AM ET

The Raptors practiced in Memphis yesterday and then headed south, much like their playoff chances. With only 24 games left and the team 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot in the Atlantic Division, time quickly is running out on Toronto's entry in the NBA. Barring an extensive win streak, the Raptors will miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

A victory in New Orleans tonight against the 13-45 Hornets is pretty well a must for the 24-34 Raptors, who lost to Memphis on Friday night.

Head coach Sam Mitchell managed to put a positive spin on his team's situation yesterday before his team jumped on a plane bound for the Big Easy.

"What you're hoping for is that it just clicks, and you can run off eight, nine (wins) in a row," Mitchell said. "You just have to keep plugging away."

Forward Jalen Rose said it's time to stop talking about putting together a win streak and perform.

BIGGER GOAL

"We have to understand that we're playing for a bigger goal than they (New Orleans) are at this point of the season," he said. "We have to be pros and go out and get it done."

Rose said as long as a playoff spot mathematically is possible, they can't give up, even though there are several teams between the Raptors and a playoff berth.

"But I've seen stranger things happen in this league," he said. "It's by no stretch over, but time is up for talking about it. We have to go out and play and get some win streaks together."

Again, if the Raptors want to make a run at the playoffs, starting small forward Morris Peterson has to find a way out of his road funk. Peterson is averaging 15.1 points at home and 8.4 away from the Air Canada Centre this season.

On Friday against the defence-minded Grizzlies, Mo Pete shot 3-for-11 from the field and 0-for-5 from three-point range.

Still, Mitchell plans to stick with the veteran until the very end and will not entertain the idea of changing the starting lineup.

"Part of this league is you have to learn how to play through adversity and he just has to bear down and concentrate doing the little things -- defence, running the court, trying to get easy baskets," Mitchell said, adding that Peterson is starting to press out of frustration, which is a one-way ticket to failure.

"The harder you try, the harder it's going to come. You just have to relax and let it come to you," Mitchell said.

"You've got to play hard on defence, but on offence you have to let it come to you."


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