Raptors won't let up

Even though the Toronto Raptors had a three-game win streak snapped by the Indiana Pacers on...

Even though the Toronto Raptors had a three-game win streak snapped by the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, the players remain bullish on their playoff chances for the rest of the season. (Toronto Sun/Craig Robertson)

STEVE BUFFERY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:21 AM ET

There is nothing crazy about what the Raptors want to do over the next eight games.

Toronto is 22-23 with eight games left before the all-star break and the players believe that it is important to win at least five of those.

"It's very important," said forward Chris Bosh, who was voted on as a starter for the Eastern Conference all-star team. "We want to go into the all-star break with a plus .500 record. That will build up momentum for us in the second half.

"If we can do that, our confidence will be there and everybody will be in a good mood," he added. "That's the main thing about it."

Five of the eight teams the Raptors face prior to the all-star weekend, which is Feb.16-18 in Las Vegas, are winning teams, including their next opponent, the Washington Wizards, who visit the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

But even though the Raptors had a three-game win streak snapped with a 102-84 loss to the Indiana Pacers at the Conseco Fieldhouse on Saturday night, the players remain bullish on their chances leading up to the all-star game, and for the rest of the season.

The Raptors hold a slight lead over the New Jersey Nets on top of the Atlantic Division standings and the goal for the club is to stay on top and qualify for the playoffs.

Swingman Anthony Parker said that the players have to realize that games this time of year are as important as games are in March and April, when the battle for playoff spots heat up.

"Everybody gets to the end of the season and starts to jostle for spots, but the games now are just as important as then," he said.

Bosh agreed with Parker's sentiments, suggesting that if the young Raptors face one disadvantage, it's the fact that most of the players have never been in a playoff race, himself included.

"We have a young team (and) we don't really understand what kind of intensity we have to take it up to after the break," he said. "But we need to be in a better position. We have room for improvement."

It's also crucial for the Raptors to remain healthy. If either Bosh, starting point guard T.J. Ford, who has missed the past four games with a sore right ankle, or rookie Andrea Bargnani go down for long period of times, a playoff spot becomes a long shot, to say the least.

The big question could be Bosh. Though he is playing very well, averaging 22.3 points and 10.9 rebounds a game, the 22-year-old all-star is liable to hit a wall or two over the next three months of the schedule. He is averaging 37 minutes per game and has played a lot of basketball over the past seven months, starting with a trek to the world championship in Japan last summer with the U.S. team. And while some use the all-break to recharge, Bosh will be busy in Las Vegas.

But Bosh said is not worried about wearing out, though his coach, Sam Mitchell, said that he will have to keep a close eye on his star player in the second half of the season.

"That's just a part of what I have to deal with," he said. "I have to take care of my body. I just have to take things one at a times. Some days I'm going to have days like (Saturday), where my jump shots aren't falling, shots I usually hit aren't going down, but you just have to find a way to beat it."


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