MoPete has a goal

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

CHICAGO -- Raptors forward Morris Peterson believes there is a way to salvage the season, even though his team will be watching the playoffs on TV for the third straight year.

Finishing the 2004-05 campaign with a better record than last season will represent a minor victory for the organization, MoPete said.

Toronto finished 33-49 last year and, with six games remaining this season, are 31-45. If the Raps can win three of their final six, Peterson said all is not lost, although he is frustrated over his club's failure to qualify or the post-season for the third year in a row.

"If we can get more wins than last year, that's taking a step," Peterson said, adding he believes his club is moving in the right direction despite many opinions to the contrary.

"We had a lot of different things going on this year, but for the most part, guys still got out there and laid it all out on the court."

Four of the final six games for the Raps are at home, beginning tonight against the Indiana Pacers, but only the New York Knicks and Milwaukee Bucks are teams with inferior records. Another factor weighing against the Raps in their hopes of improving from last season is, now that they are officially out of the playoffs, head coach Sam Mitchell is expected to play his inexperienced players -- rookie forward Pape Sow in particular -- more often.

Still, Peterson believes his club can win at least three.

"You know what?" he said. "I want to take one at a time, and try to win all six of them."

One of the more frustrated players in the locker room after the loss to Chicago on Saturday night was veteran forward Jalen Rose, who missed the post-season with the Raptors last year and the two subsequent seasons with the Chicago Bulls.

Rose has two more years left on his contract and there has been speculation he would like to be dealt to a contender after having a taste of the NBA finals with Indiana in 2000.

Surprisingly, however, Rose was singing a different tune on Saturday night after the Raps lost to the Bulls 110-97 at the United Center.

COHESION

"One of the things that may be wrong with this league is that there's no stability from top to bottom and from that, you never gain any cohesion," Rose said, when asked for his thoughts on returning to Toronto.

"Winning teams are stable teams."

The remaining highlight this season for the Raps is the return of Vince Carter on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre.

Carter was traded to the New Jersey Nets in December and has since been a human highlight reel in the Swamp -- this after admitting he didn't always give 100% with the Raps.

It is expected the ACC faithful will give Carter a hard time when he touches down in Toronto.


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