Reality check for Raptors

MARK KEAST -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:18 AM ET

If the Raptors' home-opening win Friday night was a taste of their new up-tempo style, yesterday's loss to the San Antonio Spurs was an education on how far they need to climb to reach the NBA's elite level.

The loss, a convincing 103-94 affair, could be whittled down to a lack of execution, the importance of pushing the ball and taking more shots -- everything the team has been preaching since the dawn of training camp.

That's what Raptors coach Sam Mitchell was talking about after yesterday's game, anyway. Somewhere along the road, between the pre-game talk and the opening tip-off, the message got lost.

This was a game that, no doubt, had Raptors coaches and management feeling fidgety. The team clearly wasn't up for it and went 0-for-7 to start the afternoon. That opened the door for bench guys such as Jorge Garbajosa and Andrea Bargnani to get quality floor time.

In the end, 76 field-goal attempts isn't going to have anyone in Raptors-land uncorking the champagne.

"We were a little bit passive on offence and defence," Chris Bosh said. "Sometimes it just happens."

San Antonio is picked by some to win the championship this year, for many legitimate reasons. Start with the league's best defence, anchored by the inside presence of Tim Duncan, who is back healthy this season after a missing a major chunk of last season with plantar fasciitis, that under-the-heel-bone ailment.

Duncan finished the day with 26 points and six rebounds. He began the game slowly. But in the third quarter, he showed off a full menu of low post plays, set the tempo for his team and that is when the Spurs pulled away for good.

Add to that a 19-point effort from point guard Brent Barry and another 12 apiece from Manu Ginobili and, off the bench, Brent Barry, and you can start to get the idea on where this one was heading.

The Raps were dragging, Morris Peterson conceded.

"But you have to give them credit. They took a lot of things away from us," he said. "I wasn't able to find some of those open shots I'm used to."

The Raptors' highs on the day? Maybe Bosh's 17 rebounds, to go with his 19 points. Or, the team's eight steals. Or some flashy play out of a seemingly energized Bargnani, in particular a nice layup and foul on a nice feed from point guard T.J. Ford after he had outrun fellow seven-footer Francisco Elson to the basket.

Still, in the end, it was just a handful of pluses for the Raps, who led 25-17 after the first quarter, but was outscored in each of the final three.

"I settled for jump shots early, but then I got aggressive, I got to the rim, I got points in the paint," Bosh said. "I wish I could have started out like that, but you can't take it back."

Said Peterson: "They have a lot of experience. We're still trying to find our place."

REPORT CARD

D Offence: It's not good when the team that wants to slow down the game -- the Spurs -- takes more shots (78-76) than the team that wants to play fast. The Raptors generated next to nothing in transition.

C Defence: The Raptors left Brent Barry way too much room on the perimeter and he nailed all five of his three-point shots.


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