Raptors out of it

Toronto Raptors Mike James goes in for a layup in the 1st half of a game against the Boston Celtics...

Toronto Raptors Mike James goes in for a layup in the 1st half of a game against the Boston Celtics at the ACC on April 4, 2006. (Toronto Sun/Ernest Doroszuk)

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:29 AM ET

That's a Rap, folks.

The Raptors entered their game against the Boston Celtics at the Air Canada Centre last night facing the possibility of officially being eliminated from qualifying from the playoffs.

Any combination of a loss by the Raps or a win by Philadelphia would have Toronto playing for only pride -- and potentially future jobs -- in the final eight games of the 2005-2006 season.

Early in the game it looked as though the Raptors were going to win, but in the end they lost 124-120, despite leading by seven points in the fourth quarter.

The Raptors will miss the post season for the fourth consecutive season.

A windmill dunk by Gerald Green punctuated the Raptors' humiliating season. Down by two, they didn't even try to foul the Celtics on the play after committing a foul seconds earlier when head coach Sam Mitchell expressly told them not to.

But it has been that kind of season.

"We're playing for pride right now," guard Mike James said. "I think every time we come out on the court, we've still got something to prove to ourselves. We can't just lay down. Not now."

The Raptors set a franchise record by making 28 of 28 free throws and led in most of the salient categories. But they allowed the Celtics 53 free throws, which Mitchell felt was far too many.

"Either they're going to learn (not to foul) or we're going to find some people who will," Mitchell said.

Morris Peterson led Toronto with 32 points, while James added 25 after a slow first half.

Paul Pierce, who had two early fouls in the game, had 22 for Boston, equalling a team-high for the game with Wally Szczerbiak.

Toronto lost its fifth consecutive game, with leading scorer Chris Bosh out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive game. He injured a thumb in the first game that started the losing skid.

Mitchell said the Raptors simply have to learn to close out.

"We move the ball for 46 minutes, 47 minutes and get a lead and the last two, three minutes of the game we don't move the ball," he said. "We foul too much. Fifty-three free throws, how are you going to win?"

In front of an announced crowd of 16,598, the Raps took an early lead, ahead 21-12 with less than six minutes to in the first quarter, but then the Celtics shook of their rest and started to score with long jump shots from Ryan Gomes and Raef LaFrentz, who knocked down back-to-back three-pointers.

Raptors Matt Bonner knocked down a couple of his own in the first half, but came up short with one to close the half as Boston lead 63-61.

With time almost expired in the third quarter, Morris Peterson appeared to be fouled, but the referees ruled the clock had been started early, which drove Toronto Mitchell apoplectic. Peterson took the ball once play resumed and after time expired he threw up a 75-footer that hit nothing but net.

But the Raps had the lead at 90-89, after trailing at one point in the quarter 78-71.

REPORT CARD

B- Offence: Scoring 120 points never is a bad thing, but it goes to waste in a loss. Raptors have scored 113 points or more in four of past five games, all losses.

C- Defence: Raptors fouled when they weren't supposed to and sent the Celtics to the free-throw line 53 times, a season high for an opponent.


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