Drop in standings sobering

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:21 AM ET

The Raptors woke up yesterday to some sobering news, a turn of events franchise player Chris Bosh hopes his team doesn't take lightly.

When Bosh glanced at the standings, he noticed how the surging Philadelphia 76ers had vaulted ahead of the reeling Raptors for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.

While the schedule favours the Raptors, a team that seems incapable of beating an opponent with a winning record, Bosh knows the urgency to step up, beginning with tonight's home tip against the Detroit Pistons.

It's a big if, but if the season were to end with the Raptors ensconced in the seventh slot, they will play the Pistons, a team that is everything the Raptors are not.

To wit, Detroit is playoff-tested, can defend and knows how to execute in crunch time.

The good news for the Raptors, though, is their coming schedule, but news of Philly leapfrogging Toronto has Bosh nonetheless concerned.

For the record, if Philly and Toronto are tied at the end of the regular season, the Raptors will earn the higher seed based on their season-series edge.

All this, of course, is based on the Raptors qualifying for the post-season.

"It sure is a wakeup call,'' Bosh said yesterday. "(The Sixers) are playing well and we're not. That's fact of the matter.

"Teams all go through struggles and we're going through ours late in the season."

The Raptors enter the night losers of seven of eight. They haven't beaten a team with a winning record since a Feb. 20 victory over the Orlando Magic.

At 35-35, the Raptors are on the verge of sporting a losing record.

"We keep saying we have to play playoff-style basketball, but we haven't done that,'' Bosh said. "That's plain and simple."

Because their schedule is dotted with winnable games, there's enough time for the Raptors to right their listless ship.

The concern is how passive they become when crunch time arrives and when every possession matters, much like it does in the post-season.

"I am concerned, but I have to keep everything in perspective,'' head coach Sam Mitchell said of his free-falling team.

"If I panic, what are they (players) going to do? A coach can't panic."

A coach can't make shots or stops in the final two minutes of a close game, either.

In back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Denver, the Raptors wilted when the game's intensity picked up.

"In the last three or four minutes of a game, we sit back and hope someone misses a shot or makes a bad play,'' Mitchell said.

"We have to go out and force a missed shot, force a bad play."

In other words, it's all about attitude, a trait that isn't so easily fixed.

Outside of Bosh or when T.J. Ford is playing in sync, the Raptors don't have many mentally tough players.


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