Grind taking toll on Raps

STEVE BUFFERY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:12 AM ET

ROME -- The Raptors may be enjoying the sights and sounds of the Eternal City but they appear, on the basketball court at least, to be about as flat as a piadina.

Following a six-day training camp in the northern town of Treviso, the Raptors moved to Rome late last week for games against the Boston Celtics (a 89-85 loss on Saturday) and, last night, Virtus Roma.

In neither game did the Raptors look particularly good, but last night's affair at PalaLottomatica was about as uninspiring as you can imagine, at least until late in the contest.

Perhaps it was the heat inside PalaLottomatica or the fact that Raptors are road-weary.

In any event, the Raptors only found their feet midway through the fourth quarter to pull away with a 93-87 victory over the Italian side in front of 9,823 fans, about 1,300 fewer than the sell-out crowd that turned up to see Boston.

Toronto head coach Sam Mitchell said the Raptors expected Virtus Roma to come hard against an NBA side.

"We still have guys who are not in the physical condition they need to be in at the start the season,'' he said. "But we're slowly getting there."

Power forward Chris Bosh had a solid game and appears to be rounding into regular- season form, scoring 23 points in 30 minutes last night, along with nine rebounds.

Local hero Andrea Bargnani fouled out after playing 23 minutes, but scored 13 with seven boards.

"It was a beautiful experience for me to come here. That's one side," Bargnani said. "On the other side, now I can stay more relaxed."

While last night's game didn't mean a lot in terms of the big picture this season, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo did get a chance to get a look at Roma point guard Roko Ukic, Toronto's second- round draft pick in 2005, who joined Roma this season after two largely unproductive seasons in Spain.

Colangelo is in no hurry to try to bring the Croatian to Toronto anytime soon, as the organization feels he needs to develop his game more.

Also, the buy-out in his contract is restrictive, said to be in the $1-million range, although the Raptors hold his NBA rights in perpetuity and Colangelo believes the 23-year-old's skills fit the NBA game.

Ukic played a solid game for Roma, scoring 10 points, while adding nine assists and two steals.

Danish forward Christian Drejer led all Roma scorers with 23.

The Raptors head to Madrid, Span today after touring some more sights of Rome this morning.

Their next pre-season game is Thursday in the Spanish capital against European powerhouse Real Madrid and then it's home to face the Lithuanian club Zalgiris Kaunas on Oct.17 at the Air Canada Centre.


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