Wanted: One good rebounder

Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva is all business as he drives past Utah's James Lang during the...

Raptors rookie Charlie Villanueva is all business as he drives past Utah's James Lang during the pre-season opener for both teams Wednesday night. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

Coach Sam Mitchell was fit to be tied last night after the Raptors lost 102-101 in overtime to the Utah Jazz in the first pre-season game of the year for both teams.

It wasn't his young club's effort that irritated the second-year head coach, but the old bugaboo which plagued his team all of last year -- poor rebounding.

The Raptors were last in the league in total rebound percentage last season.

Utah pulled in 54 boards to Toronto 37 in front of 12,285 fans at the Air Canada Centre. The Jazz also committed 33 turnovers, but the Raptors could not capitalize on that rather dire statistic.

"We have to find somebody who is going to rebound," an incredulous Mitchell said. "That's all we've been talking about (in training camp). We get initial stops, the ball bats around and we don't get the rebound. I don't know a skill for that other than just toughness. You just have to want it more than the other guy.

"We have to find somebody," he said. "If they're not in the locker room, hopefully there's somebody walking around somewhere that wants a job rebounding. It just blows my mind."

Mitchell did take some positives out of last night's game, mainly the play of rookie forward Charlie Villanueva, who recorded 15 points, five rebounds and four blocked shots in 36 minutes; free-agent point guard Jose Calderon, who had nine points and five boards; and training- camp invitee Tierre Brown, who had 24 points (14 from the free-throw line) and seven assists.

Villanueva was a highly controversial pick for Raptors general manager Rob Babcock, who still is feeling the heat for choosing Rafael Araujo eighth overall last year. When Villanueva's name was announced seventh overall during this year's draft, the Raptors faithful gathered inside the ACC booed and every basketball wag from Miami to Seattle ripped Babcock.

Last night, Mitchell started five veterans in Jalen Rose, Chris Bosh, Loren Woods, Morris Peterson and Mike James, but was not going to play them major minutes just to open up the pre-season with a win.

The Raptors shot only 65% from the free throw line (32-for-49), another source of woe.

Utah's C.J. Miles nailed a 25-foot jump shot with 2.4 seconds left to tie the game, 89-89. Villanueva scored after picking up an offensive rebound in overtime to put the Raptors ahead 101-100 with 17.4 seconds remaining. The rookie then came up with a huge block with 8.6 seconds on the clock.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, Robert Whaley tipped in a rebound with 0.8 seconds left for the Utah win.

Toronto's Matt Bonner left the game at 3:48 of the third quarter with a nasty stomach virus while rookie forward Joey Graham, who had two points and one rebound in 14 minutes, also was forced to leave the game at the half because of tendinitis in his left knee.

Guard Alvin Williams (knee) and forward Eric William(knee) did not dress. Star forwards Carlos Boozer and Matt Harpring did not dress for Utah.


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