Raps must find way to stop LeBron

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

The feel-good period for the end of a five-game losing skid becomes quite a bit less at this time of year.

So it was no surprise to see the Raptors fully focused on tonight's task in Cleveland rather than reliving the return of their three-time all-star Chris Bosh which coincided with a decisive win over a D-League calibre Miami Heat the night before.

Sure, a win over any team following that west-coast death march had to feel good but the fact is those five consecutive losses out west have put a premium on the rest of the schedule.

Therefore it was all about LeBron James and the potential first-round opponent Cavaliers at practice yesterday and very little about Ricky Davis or any other member of the Heat one might remember.

"It's tough man," Raptors coach Sam Mitchell said yesterday. "LeBron (James) is really playing well and they put the ball in his hands a lot and he's like a freight train going down the lane. The teams that have had success against him have attacked him before he has attacked them."

And that in a nutshell is the Raptors' game plan. Wear the guy out as much as they can when they have the ball and then hope to clog up every lane possible and force him to be a long-range bomber.

"What they're doing now is putting the ball in his hands and going with high screen and rolls, side screen and rolls and he's turning the corner," Mitchell said. "They're spreading the floor and putting guys like (Wally) Szczerbiak and Delonte West, guys who can shoot the ball and he's either getting to the basket or those guys or (Damon) Jones are getting wide open shots."

Szczerbiak and West were both members of the trade deadline day overhaul Cavs GM Danny Ferry pulled the trigger on. Ben Wallace and Joe Smith also arrived with Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Shannon Brown and Ira Newble sent elsewhere.

Anthony Parker is well aware of the turnover the Cavs lineup has undergone since the Raps last played them Jan. 6. In a memorable performance (not so much for Raptors fans) James stunned the Raptors with 24 fourth-quarter points to help overcome a 17-point third-quarter deficit for a 93-90 win.

Parker says it's still all about stopping James.

"It's about him," Parker said. "They brought in some different guys. Some guys who can shoot the ball and that kind of thing but it's still going to revolve around LeBron and he's playing well, they are a tough team and if he's off his game a little bit, I think they're a little bit more vulnerable."

Mitchell agreed.

"It's him. He dominates," Mitchell said. "You look at his stat line any night. Thirty-five, 36 points, eight or nine rebounds and eight or nine assists. He can put you in the bonus by himself. He can just take over basketball games. The thing you have to do is not give him lanes to the basket and force him to take those long, tough three's. The last time we played him he made them against us. There are other night's he doesn't make them. You have to live with something. You are better off with him taking three point shots than getting to the basket." The Raptors haven't seen much of that vulnerable James in their history with the future Hall of Famer, but there's always a first and the Raps are hoping that will come tonight.


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