Spurs get tongue-lashing

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:57 AM ET

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wishes he could have San Antonio Spurs counterpart Gregg Popovich's problems.

After the defending champion Spurs improved their record to 21-6 with a tough 95-90 win over the basement-dwelling Raptors last night, the no-nonsense Popovich gave his team a pre-Christmas bashing.

"Winning is better than losing," he said. "Rasho (Nesterovic) did a great job. Everybody else was spotty. It's a miracle we have the best record in the West.

The Spurs will see just how bad -- or good -- they are tomorrow when they travel to Detroit for a championship rematch against the Pistons.

"They (the Pistons) are the best team in the league by far," Popovich said. "They're ready to start the playoffs tomorrow. I'm thankful it's not the playoffs or we'd be in big trouble."

Spurs forward Bruce Bowen said the Detroit game will serve as a measuring stick.

"It will be a good test for us right now at this point in the season," he said. "They are a great team and we will be able to judge where we are as a team after this game."

RARE PRAISE

The Raptors actually are receiving some compliments from opponents these days.

Houston Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy and Orlando Magic coach Brian Hill both praised the Raptors earlier this week and Bowen joined the party last night.

"Toronto is a hungry team," he said. "We have a lot of respect for them because they are really an up and coming team in this league right now."

STATS CENTRAL

The Raptors are shooting a solid .781 from the free-throw line and are on pace to top their franchise record of .774 from last season ... Raptors swingman Morris Peterson will play his franchise-tying high 417th game Tuesday in Detroit. He'll break the tie with Alvin Williams on Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre.

GIBBY IN THE HOUSE

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, a resident of San Antonio, attended the game last night.


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