Three and counting

STEVE BUFFERY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:20 AM ET

WASHINGTON -- Raptors coach Sam Mitchell dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday, but it was the Washington Wizards who exploded on the court.

A few hours after Mitchell told reporters that he expects his team to win a division title for the first time in franchise history, the Raptors wandered on to the Verizon Center hardwood and performed as if they were playing pickup ball at the local YMCA.

DID LITTLE

The Raptors, in losing their third game in a row, did not play defence, did not rebound and did not hustle. The result was an ugly 129-109 loss to the Wizards -- the most points Toronto has given up this season.

None of Toronto's starting five played well, including all-star forward Chris Bosh, who scored 25 points, but contributed only one rebound, before being pulled with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Bosh has struggled since the all-star break and appears fatigued.

"We're not going to make excuses," Mitchell said.

"It's the NBA. Everybody plays the same schedule, the same amount of games. Everybody has back-to-backs, everybody does the same travel. There's 21 games to go. Nobody feels good at this time of the year. It's about concentration, focus and getting it done. But you can't come out and make excuses."

Last night's loss demonstrated yet again that more than anything else, the Raptors miss Anthony Parker's defence. Toronto gave up 120 points in Cleveland on Saturday without Parker, who has a sprained right ankle. He is expected back for Sunday's game against Seattle.

Washington was led by Gilbert Arenas, who had 25 points and six assists, and the forward tandem of Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Butler picked up a double-double, with 12 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamison had 25. Antonio Daniels had 18 off the bench. Washington out-rebounded Toronto 49-27. Clearly, that was a major factor in the loss.

Bosh said the next three games, which are against weaker teams starting with the Memphis Grizzlies tonight at the Air Canada Centre, are key to a playoff charge.

"We have to treat them like they're must-win games," Bosh said.

Mitchell, who has avoided speaking of playoff possibilities, said after the morning shootaround that he no longer will be satisfied with his team just making the playoffs. He now expects his upstart squad to win a division title.

"We have a chance to accomplish something in the 11 years of this franchise that no other team has done," Mitchell said before the game. "Even when this franchise had their best playoffs, they weren't division champs. So that would special."

Rookie forward Andrea Bargnani returned after missing Saturday's game in Cleveland to visit his ailing grandfather in Italy.

REPORT CARD

B - Offence: The Raptors shot 52% from the field, but scored only 20 fast-break points and picked up only 21 assists to Washington's 29.

F Defence: The Raptors were out-rebounded 49-27. Washington out-hustled Toronto all night, scoring 33 second-chance points, compared to 10 for the Raptors. Allowed the Wizards to shoot 51% from the floor, and 44% from the three.


Videos

Photos