Rough stretch of road

Jalen Rose leads the Toronto Raptors against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City tonight. (Toronto Sun...

Jalen Rose leads the Toronto Raptors against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City tonight. (Toronto Sun File/Craig Robertson)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- Do not ask the Raptors how the West is won.

They have no idea.

The Raptors begin a five-games-in-seven-nights West Coast swing tonight here against the Utah Jazz, having lost 11 games in a row played two or more time zones away from the Air Canada Centre.

Included in that ugly skid is an 0-4 jaunt in November when the Raptors (13-24) lost close games against the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings before a trip-ending blowout loss against the Golden State Warriors. The Raptors, as a franchise, are 14-31 in the five cities they will visit in the next week.

"The past is the past," Raptors swingman Jalen Rose said after the team practised yesterday at the Delta Center.

"You can always talk cliches, and why you didn't get it done and what you learned (on the previous trip), but none of that matters when you throw that ball up (tonight)."

There is a decent chance the Raptors will have to begin their trip without starting point guard Mike James, who was a limited participant in practice yesterday after missing a 129-103 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday with back spasms. James said he is day to day.

The good news is this journey does not feature any of the top five teams in the West. The Raptors, who opted to travel immediately after the New York game instead of practising in Toronto, put their feet up yesterday afternoon while the Jazz was in the midst of losing to the Clippers 102-93 in overtime in a Martin Luther King Day matinee in Los Angeles.

"You've got to try to get off to a good start when you go on these five- or six-game road trips," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "Utah's playing well and we (got) a chance to watch them (yesterday). We wanted to come in and get in a little practice. I think it always helps if you can practice on the other team's court just to get some shots up and get our legs up under us from a long trip."

The Raptors' previous win two or more time zones away came right here in Utah way back on Nov. 10, 2004 when the Raptors defeated the Jazz 104-95.

BACK-TO-BACK

The Raptors will have very little time to rest in the next week as they play two sets of back-to-back games. Against Western Conference teams this season, they are just 2-9.

"Different time zone, different style of play, pretty good teams and last year's world champions were out here (the San Antonio Spurs), so a lot of teams do what they can to match up against them," Rose said when asked to explain the Raptors' struggles against the West. "It's a total different style of play. In the Eastern Conference, it's a guard-dominated conference, where guards lead their team in scoring and dominate the ball. In the Western Conference, it's just the opposite, a forward-dominated conference with some great, dynamic guards in it."


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