Even Carter feels for Raps

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

It was so bad for the Raptors last night that Vince Carter was feeling sorry for his former team.

"Going through rebuilding is always tough, I don't care where you are or who you are," the New Jersey Nets star said after his team beat the Raptors 102-92 in a game that was not as close as the score suggested.

"It's important for those guys to really stay together and stay positive, if that's possible."

Two nights after opening the season with a narrow 99-96 loss to the Washington Wizards, the youthful Raptors responded with the kind of effort that was expected by all of those prognosticators who picked the team to finish at the bottom of the NBA standings. With a near-capacity crowd of 18,586 on hand at the Air Canada Centre to boo Carter, the Raptors instead gave the crowd another reason to jeer.

"We didn't come out with any energy," Raptors forward Chris Bosh said. "We know we're not good enough to let the game come to us. We have to come with high energy, play hard, team basketball and do everything the right way. Coming into the season, we all knew we didn't have too much room for error."

Shooting a woeful 27.5% in the first half is just too much for this squad to overcome. The Raptors shot 40% for the game, just above the 39.8% from Wednesday. They whittled a 24-point deficit down to nine in the fourth quarter, but never got closer.

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell didn't give a glowing endorsement to rookie forward Joey Graham, who is starting ahead of Morris Peterson.

"It was disappointing the way we started the game," Mitchell said. "We talked about it with Joey. Putting him in the lineup, he's got to give us energy when he is out there."

However, Mitchell is preaching patience with his rookies -- Graham, Charlie Villanueva and point guard Jose Calderon, who was solid again with 20 points and seven assists. The Nets' Richard Jefferson scored a game-high 35 points. Carter added 20.

Mitchell, who is committed to having the rookies play through problems, knows there will be growing pains.

"Probably 80% of it (is due to inexperience)," Mitchell said. "(The Nets) come out with veteran guys who understand the league and know how to play. We come out with second-year guys. It's tough."

How bad was it last night?

Well, Nets centre Nenad Krstic had as many rebounds (seven) in the first quarter as the entire Raptors team, and the Nets had more rebounds in the first half (31) than the Raptors' point total (28).

At centre, the Raptors got a combined zero points and four fouls from starter Loren Woods and sophomore Rafael Araujo, who was whistled for a foul just two seconds after he was inserted.

It doesn't get any easier for the Raptors tonight. They face the defending Eastern Conference champion Detroit Pistons on their home court.

"Honestly, it's bothersome," Bosh said of the team's lack of energy. "But we have a game (tonight) and a chance to prove to ourselves that we can play harder."


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