Road kill five times over

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

SALT LAKE CITY -- It had the potential to be a stunning turning point.

Instead, it turned into a heartbreaking loss and a bitter way to end a horrible West Coast swing.

The Raptors, so good and so poised for three quarters, couldn't keep it up in the fourth and lost 101-96 against the NBA-best Utah Jazz, dropping their record on the trip to 0-5 and extending their losing streak to six games. The Raptors blew a 16-point lead from the third quarter because of the same old problems -- missed shots and not enough rebounds.

"It's just tough, man," said Raptors star Chris Bosh, who led his team with 17 points and 11 rebounds. "We fought hard and we got to the basket on a lot of occasions. But we just came up a little short. I think they got a lot of key rebounds and a lot of desperation rebounds killed us."

Despite losing their edge, the Raptors still had a chance to tie it, four times, in the final two minutes.

But, down three, T.J. Ford was called for an offensive foul and then Jorge Garbajosa, Ford and Jones missed potential tying threes. The Raptors didn't call a timeout on any of those three possessions, but they had good opportunities. Mehmet Okur sank two foul shots to sink it.

"T.J. got a three, Garbo got a very good look and Freddy got a good look," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said. "I don't think (with a) timeout we could have got a better look than we got."

The Raptors went on a 14-0 run in the third to take the huge lead, but couldn't hold off the never-say-die Jazz, who fought back from the same 16-point deficit in a win over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.

Utah is off to its best start in franchise history, while the Raptors are tied for the NBA basement with the Chalotte Bobcats and Memphis Grizzlies, who share records of 2-8.

The Jazz outrebounded the Raptors 51-36 -- with eye-opening second-round pick Paul Millsap and Okur leading the charge.

Carlos Boozer was almost perfect for Utah, finishing with 35 points on 14-of-16 shooting. Six players scored in double figures for the Raptors, but it wasn't enough.

On the bright side, first-overall pick Andrea Bargnani had what was easily his best game as a Raptor, playing a career-high 27 minutes and scoring a career-high 15 points. Most importantly, he didn't take ill-advised shots and wasn't a foul machine.

"I was not disappointed, not upset (about playing reduced minutes before last night)," Bargnani said. "Coach talked to me. He put me in slowly, step by step."

The Raptors followed the game plan to near perfection the first three quarters, limiting stupid three-point attempts and moving the ball nicely.

But it didn't matter in the end and now, the Raptors are just one win better than where they were at this point last season.

The season could slip away unless they turn it around in a hurry.

"Each team is going to go through their slides," Bosh said.

"We're just going through ours early. We're still trying to find an identity."

The Raptors play host to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night at the Air Canada Centre before returning to the road Friday to face the Atlanta Hawks.


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