Raptors have no Answer

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:36 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA -- Raptors general manager Rob Babcock gave Raptors fans a song and dance yesterday that would have made Sammy Davis Jr. blush.

Almost as if he can feel the noose being placed around his neck, the second-year GM made the surprising move of posting a message on the team's website, asking for patience and support while promising that there will be better days ahead.

"What is important for us is that we're better in February than we are in November, and better in April than we are in February," Babcock said. "We believe in our plan and we will not scrap it because of early season losses. This is a team for the future and we hope you are there with us."

NOWHERE TO GO BUT UP

Babcock is dead-on about one thing. The club's record in February will almost certainly be better than it was in November, which isn't saying much. As it stands now, the Raptors are 0-7 on the month, and on the season, after dropping a 104-92 decision to the Philadelphia 76ers last night at the Wachovia Center -- despite the best efforts of Chris Bosh and rookie forward Charlie Villanueva.

Coming off the bench, Villanueva scored 27, shooting 12-for-17 from the field, while picking up 13 rebounds. Bosh had 19 points and 17 rebounds.

Jalen Rose had 15 points with five assists. Philadelphia star guard Allen Iverson led all scorers with 34 points along with 12 assists while power forward Chris Webber had 28 points and 16 boards.

The Raptors trailed 39-20 after the first quarter, but went on a 11-0 run to start the second with Iverson on the bench. Upon Iverson's return, the 76ers regained control of the game and moved ahead, 53-45 at the half.

Villanueva came off the bench to score 17 in the first half in eight minutes.

"That's where we lost the game," Villanueva said of the first quarter deficit. "We have to throw the first punch (in games). We have to play as if the first five minutes are really important."

The Raptors have buried themselves early with slow starts this season and have fallen short after posting a rallies late in games, as was the case again last night.

"We can't afford to shoot ourselves in the foot early in games," Bosh added. "We don't have constant intensity, and that's one thing we have to work at. We have to play all four quarters with a high level of intensity."

Starting centre Aaron Williams posted zero points and zero rebounds in the opening five minutes.

The Raptors out-rebounded the 76ers 48-46 but turned the ball over 19 times. Another problem for Toronto came at the free throw line. The Raptors shot 16-for-23 (70%). Philadelphia picked up nine steals Toronto's three.

The two teams go at it again tonight at the Air Canada Centre.


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