Hard road for Raps

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

The Raptors need Rose to bloom, more heat from MoPete and the Red Rocket to achieve some sort of liftoff if they want to avoid tying or setting an NBA futility mark.

On Dec. 2, the 0-9 Raptors travel to Atlanta to meet the equally inept Hawks. That will be regular-season game No. 17 for Toronto and, by the look of the team's schedule, may be the next decent chance they have to secure a long-awaited victory.

The record for most losses to start a season is 17, held by the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers. Prior to facing Atlanta, the Raptors will face Miami, Phoenix, the Clippers, Sacramento, Golden State, Dallas and Memphis. All but Sacramento are .500 or better and the Kings are 3-2 at home.

After facing the red-hot Heat this afternoon at the Air Canada Centre, the Raps will embark on a gruelling four-game, five-day West Coast swing before returning to face Dallas and Memphis before facing Atlanta.

On paper, a victory prior to the Atlanta game seems to be a tall order, and a place in the record books may be in the club's immediate future.

Still, if the Raptors, who have improved of late against Philadelphia and Boston, receive a big game or two from the likes of Jalen Rose, Morris Peterson or Matt Bonner, anything can happen. Rose and Bonner, in particular, are struggling offensively this season. Rose is averaging 12.6 points per game, four points less than last season, and is shooting a miserable 36% from the field. Bonner, who shot 53% last season, is shooting 38% and is averaging 4.6 points per game, almost three fewer than during his rookie campaign.

Needless to say, the mood at Raptorland these days is not one of unbridled enthusiasm, although head coach Sam Mitchell continues to insist that his players, including Rose, are playing hard, although the team defence leaves a lot to be desired.

"You can't feel sorry for yourself," Mitchell said following the team practice yesterday. "We understand the situation. We know how we lost every game, every turnover, every bad decision. We know.

"The things our guys have to do is keep their spirits up. They have to continue to fight and play hard, and they're doing that."

The Raptors seemed poised to snatch a win in Boston on Friday night, leading through much of the first half, but folded in the late going and lost 100-93 to a struggling Celtics squad.

The Heat are without injured centre Shaquille O'Neal for the game today, but have won four in a row.


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