Lack of defence dooms Raptors

KEN FIDLIN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:00 AM ET

Ninety minutes before game time, Sam Mitchell was doing something he hates to do.

At the insistence of a clutch of mediots, he was looking back at the last couple of games, both losses.

The Raptors coach hates to look back almost as much as he hates losing.

"Against Boston, we just didn't shoot well," said Mitchell.

"And (Tuesday, in Milwaukee) we just got beat. The best thing we can do is let it go."

Inside the locker room, T.J. Ford was taking his cues from the coach.

"Game yesterday, game today," said Ford. "You've got to leave it behind you. There's always a chance to make up for it the next day.

"We've got to do a better job of making those guys work and pay the price for their points."

Right now, nobody is paying the price.

Opposing shooters are operating with far too large a comfort zone, attacking the Raptors without hesitation, without fear.

Meanwhile, the Raptors are shooting as if they're playing at the National Brotherhood of Bricklayers picnic.

It continued last night.

The Raptors came out of the gate against Orlando and missed their first 11 shots, falling behind 15-2 (the 2 being a pair of Chris Bosh foul shots) before Jason Kapono nailed Toronto's first field goal of the game with 5:53 left in the quarter.

Quickly they closed the gap to 31-23, then started the second quarter by missing their first six shots.

By the half, they had clawed back into it, down by five by hitting on 13 of 16 free throws.

Twice in the third quarter, they closed to within two points but couldn't get level until Dwight Howard, a beast all night for Orlando, got into foul trouble and had to go to the bench.

A former first overall pick, Howard is an impressive physical specimen at 6-foot-11, 265 pounds and chiseled.

"When I come back (in another life), I want his body," said Mitchell.

"I'll keep my face but I want that body."

In Howard's absence, the Raps finally got a brief lead but when he came back in, Orlando went on a fourth-quarter run to cruise to victory, shooting 64.3% in the fourth quarter alone.

That is not the kind of defence that will get the Raptors to the 50-win level.

Bosh and Andrea Bargnani have been feeling the heat, neither producing at the level they're expected to. After a frustrating night in Milwaukee, Bosh went off last night but as well as he matched up with Howard, it wasn't enough.

"We count on everybody,'' Mitchell said.

"We've never asked Chris and Andrea to be the saviours.

"We want everybody to just do their part. Obviously, with their talent level, their part is expected to be more than some other guys but I don't want them thinking they have to carry the entire burden."

Just as Desmond Mason had turned them inside out Tuesday, Hedo Turkoglu did it again last night, matching teammate Rashard Lewis at 24 points.

Right now, the Raps are making it just too easy but, surprisingly, at least for public consumption, Mitchell is careful not to step on his players' toes.

"I take it hard but mostly I just don't let them see it. They've got enough to think about,'' he said.

"I let them know how I feel right after the game and that's it. As a player I didn't like coming in the next day and walking on eggshells.

"I watched the tape (of the Milwaukee game). What am I gonna tell these guys about Desmond Mason?

"He makes nine 15-foot jump hooks. What can I say about that?"

Well he might have suggested that somebody, anybody, put Mason on his can a couple of times and maybe Mason might have had a second thought or two before he drove with abandon the next time.

If you're going to take fouls, as the Raptors did, then get your money's worth. Same thing last night.

When an opponent comes in and shoots 50% from the floor, somebody has to pay.

Last night, again, it was the Raps who paid with a third consecutive loss.


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