Raptors limping home

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:44 AM ET

After another ugly West Coast swing, the Raptors have a chance to plant their feet in the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre for a large chunk of time.

Depending on your perspective, playing six of the next seven games at home may or may not be a good thing.

There are more than a few fans out there who want the Raptors (14-28) to continue their losing ways, seeing as that will improve their chances in the draft lottery. Those fans may be out of luck as the Raptors have won five of their past six at home, with the only loss coming when Vince Carter hit the heartbreaking buzzer-beating three for the New Jersey Nets Jan. 7.

The Raptors, of course, never will say die in the playoff race, despite the fact their remote chances took a big hit with their 1-4 record out West. Stranger things have happened -- a team under .500 has a decent chance of making the playoffs in the East -- but the Raptors are much more pretender than contender. After all, not many playoff teams allow a guy to score 81 points against them, as Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant did on a magical Sunday in Hollywood.

Still, the players are looking forward to coming home, beginning tonight with a game against the Chicago Bulls.

"No other place to do it than to do it (go on a winning streak) at home," point guard Mike James said. "We've just got to be home and just come out and play hard."

The Raptors looked tired in their trip-capping 107-101 loss against the Denver Nuggets Monday night. They returned home yesterday and took a day off from practice after playing five games in seven nights.

"Any time you go 1-4 on a road trip, home cooking is good," Raptors swingman Jalen Rose said. "Hopefully, we can find a way to get a win."

The first game back from a long trip is dangerous.

"Usually after a long road trip, the hardest game back is the first game," Rose said. "But when you get a schedule like ours, you only get a chance to play one. I'm pretty sure our crowd is going to be happy to see us and we've got to keep them in the game and give them something to be enthusiastic about."

The Raptors are right back on the road Friday for a game against the Milwaukee Bucks before swinging back to the ACC for four consecutive games. As Raptors coach Sam Mitchell noted Monday, a few wins in this stretch might be the final push that gets star forward Chris Bosh to the all-star game next month.

February could be a big month for Bosh, who hopes to go to the all-star game and be selected for the U.S. national team's 20-man camp for the world championship.


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