Heading in a scary direction

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

OAKLAND -- The Raptors managed to get a large monkey off their back with a win against the Miami Heat on Nov.20, but now there's another big, ugly primate climbing on board.

The 107-94 victory over the Heat the Air Canada Centre halted a 0-9 start to the season with the promise of better days ahead.

However, with the four-game West Coast swing in the books, the Raptors are in danger of falling into an even more devastating slump.

The difference this time is the first three games of the trip - against the Phoenix Suns, the L.A. Clippers and Sacramento Kings - Toronto was in a good position to win all of three. Indeed, against the Clippers and the Kings, the Raptors held leads until late into the game. And that, in a way, makes losing even more difficult to take.

Head coach Sam Mitchell said that the most devastating thing about the losses, besides the losing part, is the fact that teams actually get pumped up when they face clubs on a downward spiral. Nobody wants to be the team that falls to the sad-sacks.

NEED TO GO HARD

"I tell our guys, teams are going to play hard against us. Why? Because we only won one game," he said. "Who wants to be that next team that loses against them?

"So now (opponents) play out of fear, because who wants to lose to them?" he added.

The Raptors have obviously showed promise in their three close games against Western Division powerhouses, away from the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre, but it has been a series of mental mistakes, late in games, and not always committed by the club's young players, that has Mitchell particularly frustrated.

"I just keep drilling them (in practice), keep hammering it home, keep showing to them on film," Mitchell said. "That's all I know to do."

Needless to say, frustration is building, building ...

"We have to learn how to put teams away," forward Morris Peterson said. "Hopefully it comes around sooner than later."


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