Offence is offensive

East Rutherford, New Jersey,  102-81 final score as the  Raptors lose game 4  to the Nets in  game...

East Rutherford, New Jersey, 102-81 final score as the Raptors lose game 4 to the Nets in game 4 to fall behind 3-1. Sun Photo: Stan Behal Sunday, April 29, 2007

MIKE GANTER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:42 AM ET

HOUSTON -- Sam Mitchell and the Raptors are at a loss right now.

They know they can be good. They showed that Friday night in San Antonio when they shut down the best team in the NBA.

But in that game, the offence, the staple of Mitchell teams throughout his tenure in Toronto was off. Were it just one bad night, Mitchell and the Raptors would shake it off, but it's becoming a trend this year and that has Mitchell and his captain Chris Bosh concerned.

A team that a year ago was scoring 99.5 points a game is down to closer to 96 points a game and that's with two games in which they surpassed 120 points this year skewing that number.

Last night in Houston, the Raps again played a solid defensive game holding the Rockets to under 40% shooting but shot just 37% themselves and wound up on the wrong end of a 91-79 score.

Mitchell kept the locker- room closed 30 minutes after the game as he made his feelings known to his players. Normally when the room opens up, Mitchell comes out to address the media, but not last night. Last night his office door remained closed and didn't open for another 20 minutes when Bosh emerged.

Only then did Mitchell come out and it was a truly mystified Mitchell that finally talked to the few reporters who remained.

The consensus from all that talk, if there was a consensus, was the Raptors offence needs fixing. They are settling for far too much for jump shots, they're not creating any easy baskets, and they have to find a way to change that or risk wasting the kind of defensive efforts like they got last night.

Mitchell sounded as puzzled as he has been by his club going back to that horrible 2-8 start to the season last year. He believes he has better talent than he did a year ago but it has not translated into scoring.

"Even when we were bad we could always score," Mitchell said. "We were always in the top five in scoring and for whatever reason we are not scoring. It's not our defence but for whatever reason we seem to have forgotten how to score."

The Raps shot just 37% last night, made just two of 10 three-point attempts. They converted just 9-for-17 tries from the free-throw line.

Just 24 hours earlier Mitchell had been trumpeting his team's efforts in a huge upset of the San Antonio Spurs, but masked by a strong defensive effort was another poor offensive night when the club shot just 40.5%.

Mitchell isn't sure what he'll do to correct this but he knows it has to be corrected.

Initially the plan was to give his team the day off today in Houston before a late afternoon flight to New Orleans where they will take on the Hornets tomorrow. The team had some gym time booked in Houston in case they decided to change that and sure enough that will be the case with the Raps being put through their paces this morning at a 10 a.m. practice.

Bosh said his meeting with Mitchell was just two guys putting their heads together and trying to figure out why the offence has become so stagnant.

Bosh believes the answer is to stop settling and get more aggressive. He suggested, and he said Mitchell agreed, that it was time he started driving that point home with his teammates, a point he concedes Mitchell has been making all season.

"I just want to win so no matter what I have to do, I'll do it," Bosh said afterward. "I hate to lose and he hates to lose and we just talked about it. We need to do a better job of taking it at teams. If we start early and play aggressive, coach and I feel we can do a better job."

Just don't expect that to be the only change that comes out of last night's loss.

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REPLAY

TURNING POINT

The Rockets were 9-for-20 from three-point range on the night, none bigger than the Luther Head dagger with 2:26 remaining that put the Rockets up by 10.

MAKING HIS POINT

Sam Mitchell spent the first seven minutes of the game trying to convince the refs that Yao Ming was hooking Andrea Bargnani when the Raps big man posted him up giving Yao an unfair advantage. Mitchell was relentless going from one ref to the next making his point. He finally got his call with 2:45 left in the half which incensed Houston coach Rick Adelman.

RASHO'S BACK

After back-to-back games where he did not see the floor, Rasho Nesterovic started the second quarter last night all in an effort to keep as many bigs fresh as possible as they tried to contain 7-foot-6 monster Yao Ming.


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