Misfire

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:20 AM ET

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Rob Babcock may not have been the greatest general manager in the world, but it turns out he was quite the soothsayer.

In a controversial interview last summer, the then Raptors GM, who was fired on Jan.26, told The Toronto Sun that this season's club would probably win fewer games than last year's edition, which went 33-49. With the Raptors now 26-50, with only six games left, Babcock was bang on.

The Raptors lost their seventh game in a row last night, 95-89 to the New Orleans Hornets at the Ford Center.

Throughout the club's current losing streak, the Raptors have played with enthusiasm. But every night during the streak, one flaw or another has reared its ugly head, resulting in a loss.

Last night it was a matter of shooting under 38% from the field and being dominated in the paint.

"It's frustrating to be playing well and still lose," said Mike James, who went 4-for-5 from three-point range in the fourth quarter. "We have to continue to keep fighting and growing up."

Between them, two of Toronto's better shooters, Morris Peterson and Matt Bonner, shot a combined 5-for-28 from the field, although Peterson went to the free-throw line 10 times and converted on nine.

"What are you going to say?" head coach Sam Mitchell said. "My only thing to Matt and Mo was, when you're open, keep shooting the basketball. They did, and most nights those shots go in."

Again, the Raptors, who are without the services of all-star forward Chris Bosh, played hard. Rookie forward Charlie Villanueva even came back from the locker-room in the fourth quarter to play despite suffering from flu-like symptoms and finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds.

"All of a sudden my stomach started bothering me, I started feeling light-headed, I felt like I couldn't run ... I was spaced-out," Villanueva said. "I just tried to fight it out. My team needs me."

SPOTTY DEFENCE

But when you take 35 shots (a team record) from beyond the three-point line and hit 13, chances are you won't win, especially when you're playing a team in the playoff hunt and your defence is spotty. The win lifted the Hornets to 37-38.

James went on a rampage in the second quarter, picking up 15 points, as the Raps trailed 53-47 at the half after the Hornets' Linton Johnson hit a three with 0.3 ticks on the clock. James finished with 36 points, five rebounds and four assists. Hornets rookie Chris Paul had 16 points and eight assists.

"Mike could have very easily had 12-13 assists," Mitchell said. "We missed shots when he gave the ball up, we missed layups, wide open shots we normally make. Mike was efficient."

Mitchell started rookie Joey Graham in place of veteran Eric Williams who suffered a strained left oblique muscle on Wednesday in Indiana.

REPORT CARD

C- Offence: The Raptors relied to heavily on three-pointers, shooting 13-for-34 from beyond the arc, while being outscored in the paint, 40-20.

C+ Defence: The Raptors were outrebounded 43-40 by the Hornets, a team almost as small as themselves.


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