Raptors simply overmatched

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:36 AM ET

CLEVELAND -- Two full months, to the very day . . . that's how long it had been since the Raptors lost consecutive games.

But without two of their key players in the lineup and playing on the road on the back end of back-to-back games, the Raptors were simply overmatched by the Cleveland Cavaliers last night in a 120-97 loss.

The Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns were the last pair to beat the Raps in consecutive games and last night the Cavs and Friday's conquerors, the Milwaukee Bucks joined that class.

After the game head coach Sam Mitchell, perhaps mindful that it's been a while since his team had been in anything remotely resembling a slump (and that's assuming two consecutive losses qualifies for that status), set aside any instinct that might have said his team needed some tough love and instead pulled out the group hug.

"We are not going to make any excuses," Mitchell began. "I told our guys we are going to take (today) off and I want them to forget about Friday and forget about (last night). Come Monday coach is not going to be mad at anybody. I want them to come in Friday with fresh minds, fresh legs and get back to work. We're still in first place and we still have 22 games to go."

As Chris Bosh, who lead the Raps with 25 points said minutes later, these past two games are going to be "very easy to forget." Mostly because there was nothing memorable about either from a Raptors standpoint.

Friday, in a game they should have won, the Raptors fell in love with the outside shot and when they couldn't knock it down paid the ultimate price with a costly loss.

Last night, they flat-out got outplayed in every department whether it was scoring, rebounding, moving the ball or just sheer intensity. All of those battles were clear wins by the Cavaliers.

"We just didn't come ready to play," Raptor veteran Morris Peterson said. "It was one of those games where things didn't go right for us. We weren't able to match their intensity. They took the fight to us instead of us taking the fight to them."

The Raps hung around for about 2 1/2 quarters staying within 10 Cavs until they got the lead down to five with six minutes to go in the third. T.J. Ford made that one happen on a nice steal and layup, but after it was all Cavaliers as LeBron James coasted to a 36-point night with 27 more coming from Larry Hughes who was returning from flu.

Mitchell said his biggest concern looking ahead was that the two consecutive poor outings could lead to panic which would normally lead to more losses. Hence his choice of preaching a short memory rather than a long lecture at high volume.

"I don't even want them thinking about it because we have too much to look forward to," Mitchell said. "We've played too much good basketball up until this point to look back. I shook everyone's hand, told them we were going to let these two games go and Monday we were going to start fresh."

Mitchell said he and the coaches, who will not get today off, will probably discuss "tweaking" their schemes a little just to freshen things up a bit but nothing major.

"We've just got to let it go, players, coaches, everybody," Mitchell said. "Let it go and look forward to Monday's practice."


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