Offence grinds on Sam

MIKE GANTER, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

NEW ORLEANS -- Sam Mitchell will deny it no longer. His offence is broke and it needs fixing, tweaking at the very least.

The last straw, or straws as it were, were back-to-back games in which his offence shot 40.5% from the field yet still won in San Antonio and then followed that up by shooting 37% on a night they held the Houston Rockets to less than 40% themselves but lost.

During the past 10 games, the Raptors are averaging just 92.9 points a game, 27th-worst in the NBA. For the season, they sit 16th overall scoring 96.9 a night. Mitchell looks at his team and sees better shooters than he had a year ago but not the kind of offensive production he has become accustomed to since taking over in Toronto three years ago.

When he finally emerged from his office nearly an hour after the game to speak with reporters on Saturday night, Mitchell had more questions than he did answers.

He cited Andrea Bargnani's offensive struggles this year, Anthony Parker's offensive falloff from a year ago and the offensive dropoff at the small forward position where Jamario Moon has improved the team rebounding and defence but has not matched the offence the Raptors were getting from that spot last year from first Jorge Garbajosa and then Joey Graham. Even with all that, Mitchell still is perplexed by the fact his team is scoring almost three points a game less than they did a year ago.

"I still look out there and think we're getting good shots," Mitchell said. "But what we have to do a better job of is try to get more easy baskets. We just don't get easy baskets. Every shot we get is a grind out shot. It's tough that way. It puts so much pressure on your defence.

To that end, Mitchell opted to use yesterday's scheduled off day for an unexpected practice. Any major tweaking though likely will have to wait until the new year when the Raps get home and have a few back-to-back days of practice in advance of Friday's home date with the Detroit Pistons.

In any event, it sounds like Mitchell needs more time to think through any changes he might choose to make.

"We're not telling our guys to slow down," Mitchell said. "I don't want to see them grind it out. I don't like calling a play on every set. I just don't. When you do that, you take away their freedom but then again it's almost like you're afraid not to call a play because then you risk not getting a good shot."

Mitchell and his de facto captain Chris Bosh spent 20 minutes behind closed doors after the game Saturday night. Bosh is convinced the answer to the offensive woes is becoming more aggressive as a team. Baskets don't get much easier than the one's you get from the free-throw line and that is one area where just about every Raptor not named Bosh seems to be avoiding this season.

There are seven Raptors -- Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Carlos Delfino, Andrea Bargnani and Jamario Moon -- who have attempted more three-pointers than free throws this season. Through 31 games they are averaging 15.29 free throws a game compared to 24.17 last season.

"We keep talking about this over and over again," Bosh said of setting an early aggressive tone on offence, "but I think we can do a better job of that. We need to do a better job of going at teams, no matter who they are. Just go at them and make them take a step back. If we do that we will get jump shots any time we want."

Bosh is convinced the Raps aren't getting calls from the referees when they do drive because it's such a rarity that it surprises the refs when the Raptors do it.

As for any solutions he and Mitchell came up with in their post-game meeting, Bosh seemed to be suggesting he would take a more vocal role.

"We were just talking about trying different methods of encouragement and I think if I can do a better job of that, then Sam won't have to talk so much, and I think maybe then the message will be heard," Bosh said. "You know Sam, like any head coach, is going to talk a lot and sometimes the same source over and over it becomes routine."

It's clear the Raptors are looking hard for answers, but as Bosh admits, "it's going to take some work."


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