It's the same old song

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:17 AM ET

Raptors point guard Mike James, who likes to think that he is a good singer, was crooning out an annoying dance tune with the chorus "One more time" after the game yesterday.

Little did he know he was summing up his team's season.

One more time yesterday, the Raptors came apart down the stretch and lost 94-88 against the Charlotte Bobcats before 17,679 at the Air Canada Centre. It was the eighth consecutive loss for Chris Bosh-less Toronto.

Down 88-86 with about 40 seconds left after Brevin Knight scored on a layup, Raptors coach Sam Mitchell wanted a timeout. But the team never called it and the Bobcats trapped James in the backcourt.

With no teammate close to him for some odd reason, James opted not to call timeout and tried to throw a long cross-court pass to Morris Peterson.

But NBA steals leader Gerald Wallace stepped in front of Peterson and picked it off. Wallace then missed a layup, but Jumaine Jones was there for a knockout putback.

"It's hard when they were trapping and there is just no help," James said. "I'm not trying to make excuses. It's all about making plays. But it's hard when you ain't got no help and you got nobody in the backcourt to pass it to. (Wallace) is not leading the NBA in steals for nothing."

The Raptors would match their season-high nine-game losing streak from the start of the season with a loss to Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat tomorrow night in Florida. Bosh was injured in the first quarter of the first game of the current losing skid.

While James should have called timeout, his teammates can't escape blame. Some of them -- hello, Jose Calderon -- should have stayed back to give James another option.

"I thought we just went through this last week," Mitchell said. "Call the timeout. If we don't call it, you've got to try to advance it. They trap Mike and everybody was running away from the ball ... We're trying to get guys to understand you've got to think the whole time. What do you say?"

You say at least the team has just five games left this season. With former Prime Minister Paul Martin sitting courtside, the Raptors and the Bobcats played a game that was about as exciting as a typical House of Commons session for a good 40 minutes. The Raptors erased a nine-point third-quarter deficit and had a chance to win, but, once again, didn't make plays in crunch time.

It was a poorly played game with the Raptors turning it over 19 times, just one more than the Bobcats.

"We just have to keep going over it," a frustrated Mitchell said. "Last time I checked there are no pills, so you've just got to keep going over it. That's all you can do, keep trying to drill it, keep trying to do it. Right now, we're just going to keep hoping they get it. Keep hope alive."

James led the way with 32 points and 10 assists for the Raptors, but no other starter reached double figures, a feat accomplished by each Charlotte starter. The Raptors blew a chance to go 4-0 against the Bobcats this season, something they haven't done against any team since sweeping season series against Chicago and Atlanta in 2001-02.


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