Raptors fall flat

Toronto Raptors Mike James looks up at the score during second half NBA action against the Denver...

Toronto Raptors Mike James looks up at the score during second half NBA action against the Denver Nuggets on Friday, March. 10, 2006 in Toronto, Ont. The Nuggets defeated the Raptors 108-97. (CP PHOTO/Nathan Denette)

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:27 AM ET

For one night, the Raptors looked like a team playing out the string.

Not displaying the fight they had in many previous close losses, the Raptors went down to defeat for the ninth time in the past 10 games, losing 108-97 against the severely short-handed Denver Nuggets before 17,806 at the Air Canada Centre.

With the loss, the Raptors (21-41) ensured they will finish the season no better than .500.

Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony (right hamstring) left the game in the second half, centre Marcus Camby (left Achilles) dressed but did not play and forward Kenyon Martin (left knee) wasn't even in the lineup. But it wasn't a problem for the Nuggets, who rode the rebounding of Reggie Evans (20 rebounds and zero points) and the bench scoring of tiny point guard Earl Boykins (18 points) and Greg Buckner (17) to victory. Evans was the first player to have 20-plus rebounds and zero points since Dennis Rodman in 1997.

"We didn't shoot the ball well, we didn't play aggressive defensively and I think (Thursday's) day off showed on the court," Raptors swingman Morris Peterson said. "We came out flat and let them dictate the tempo the whole game."

It was a particularly frustrating game for Raptors star Chris Bosh, who continually passed out of double teams and kept watching his teammates miss shots. On a night when the Raptors tied the record for most consecutive games with a three-pointer, Toronto was 11-for-28 from downtown. Bosh and point guard Mike James didn't have great chemistry on the night, with the forward looking like he wanted the ball several times and not getting it.

"I think I'm an unselfish player," Bosh said. "I made the right passes. We just couldn't make the shots.

The Raptors had no excuse for their poor showing as they rested Thursday, while the Nuggets played that night, starting a seven-game swing with a win over the Philadelphia 76ers. James, while leading the team with 26 points, fouled out with four minutes left.

'NOT WHO WE ARE'

"This is not who we are," James said. "We are better than our record. I'm tired of saying it, but it's the truth."

Peterson had 20 points and Bosh had 18, while Andre Miller led the Nuggets with 23.

Raptors coach Sam Mitchell felt all the missed shots contributed to a poor effort at the other end, where the Nuggets shot 52.6% from the field.

"I wouldn't say it wasn't effort," Mitchell said. "We missed some shots and some guys got down on themselves and you've just got to fight through it, got to get past it."

The Nuggets made four consecutive threes late in the third and early in the fourth. The Raptors whittled the deficit to eight in the final two minutes.

Raptors centre Antonio Davis missed his sixth game in a row with a back sprain.

The Raptors complete a three-game homestand tomorrow against the Indiana Pacers.

REPORT CARD

D- Offence: Chris Bosh didn't have the ball enough and the Raptors looked lost all night. Mike James was out of control at times and fouled out.

D- Defence: The Nuggets looked like a well-oiled machine despite missing their top three scorers. They shot better than 50% and had five players in double figures.


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