Riley tosses up new ball

MIKE KOREEN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:15 AM ET

Miami Heat coach Pat Riley is taking the opposite approach of Raptors coach Sam Mitchell when it comes to how to break in the returning leather balls.

While Mitchell said it wouldn't make sense to start practising with the leather balls until after the Raptors play their final game with the microfibre composite basketballs Dec. 30, Riley plans to start preparing with the leather in practice much sooner than that.

"That ball is pretty slippery, too, in the beginning when you break them out," Riley said. "So we'll practise with it for a couple of weeks before we actually use it."

NEW CONCEPT

After the Raptors' most recent win -- last Saturday against the New York Knicks -- point guard T.J. Ford said it will almost always be up to him or Chris Bosh to make big plays in crunch time.

Now that Bosh is out with a bruised left knee, it puts Ford in an entirely different scenario and he is searching for a way to thrive in the role.

He had a double-double Monday in a 99-77 loss against the Miami Heat, but also committed seven turnovers for a team-high 70 this season.

"Being out there with Chris, I don't have to make plays all the time," Ford said. "Now, I'm finding myself having to make a lot more plays and sometimes trying to make too many plays. I think that's what happened (last night), (with) so many turnovers. I just have to adapt to it."

UNDER-80 CLUB

The Raptors' loss against the Heat on Monday marked just the fourth time in Mitchell's two-plus season tenure that Toronto had scored fewer than 80 points in a game.

All three previous occasions came against the Memphis Grizzlies.

NUMBER CRUNCHING

With the loss against Miami, the Raptors notched their league-leading 11th road defeat of the season. They had been tied with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Grizzlies ... Ford's seven turnovers put him one short of his career high of eight, set earlier this season in Sacramento against the Kings. The Raptors had trouble holding on to the ball all night, which had been a strong point recently. Their 12 turnovers in the first half topped their total from the previous two games -- 11.


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