Point guard of contention

MIKE GANTER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

A win over the truly horrible Miami Heat normally would not be much to hang your hat on.

But coming off three consecutive losses, two of them to inferior and injury-ravaged opponents, any win is a big win for the Raptors.

And perhaps the biggest reason Raptors fans have cause to celebrate Wednesday's 108-83 win over the lowly Heat is it marked the first time since Chris Bosh went down early in last Friday's game with Indiana that they actually looked like they could carry on as a winning team-- even temporarily -- without him.

Based on Bosh's assertions before Wednesday's game that his sore right knee has not progressed at all, it seems likely that the Raptors are not going to have the luxury of No. 4 drawing double-teams any time soon.

Bosh's absence creates a number of different problems for the Raps, none more apparent than on the offensive end where his mere presence on the floor forces teams to leave other Raptors open. Open Raptors, with few exceptions this season, means instant offence.

There's also his rebounding skills that must be made up for and the absence of the two-man game he and Jose Calderon have perfected.

Raptors head coach Sam Mitchell addressed all of that in a meeting with his team over breakfast at their Miami hotel on Wednesday.

His message: Start trusting the guys who are on the floor with you and don't worry about who is missing.

Mitchell's message, while delivered to the entire team, was particularly targeted at his two point guards who both have been playing somewhat out of character since Bosh went down. Calderon's play until Wednesday's win -- when he returned to form with 13 assists, nine points and just one rebound -- had been lagging for the past couple of weeks, so it clearly wasn't all Bosh's absence. However, both Calderon and T.J. Ford's sudden inability to make use of the other four Raptors on the floor certainly hit a low point since that loss to Indiana and Bosh's departure coincided.

"We told Jose and T.J. 'Just run the team, trust your teammates, don't try to do too much, just let your teammates have it.' Just run our stuff, execute and make sure we move the ball and get good shots and if we get good shots, we should make them," Mitchell said.

Coming one night after a sub-par shooting effort in Orlando, those words could have fallen on deaf ears but both guards stepped up and kept everyone involved.

"Chris is a really important guy," Calderon said, "but (Wednesday night) everybody did a great job and that's the way we have to play basketball -- like a team."

Looking back on the three-game losing streak, the only all-round stinker was the Friday night loss to Indiana. "We were just flat that night," Mitchell said.

Sunday in Charlotte they didn't hit the offensive boards like they must and paid a heavy penalty in 32 Bobcat second-chance points. Tuesday in Orlando they played strong defence for three quarters, had one of their worst shooting games, but were still in the hunt for the win. A fourth-quarter defensive letdown allowed Dwight Howard to catch fire, giving the Magic all the momentum they needed to pull off the win.

There's no denying the margin of error with Bosh in the lineup is a whole lot bigger. Without him, which the Raptors appear to be for a few more games, they have to be that much focused, like they were Wednesday in Miami.

"We were aggressive from the beginning and we didn't let down," centre Rasho Nesterovic said of Wednesday's effort.

That same kind of mentality is what's needed to keep the Raptors afloat until Bosh returns.


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