Raps looking for answers

FRANK ZICARELLI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:36 PM ET

To borrow Allen Iverson's line, the Raptors are talking about practice in these troublesome times.

Searching for answers that have been elusive for the better part of a month, the Raptors will be back on their practice court today after taking what amounted to a mental off-day yesterday.

It remains to be seen what, if anything, can be done to a Raptors team that continues to limp into the post-season by practising as they try to end their protracted practice of losing games.

With two full days to prepare for the Milwaukee Bucks and a day between tips for the remaining four games of the regular season, there will be plenty of opportunities to somehow change the mindset of a team that breaks down mentally in the fourth quarter at both ends of the floor.

They haven't been able to stop athletic wing players all season and recently have been incapable of making plays in crunch time when a stop is needed or when a basket is required.

Despite the mounting problems, the growing frustration level and the lost games, the Raptors still cling to this notion that they will get it right.

"We're still in the playoffs," Chris Bosh said. "We're not in that big of a deficit. We just have to keep playing.

"We have to stay solid and carry out our assignments, especially on defence. We haven't been able to practise in a long time and it'll really help us out."

It's not like head coach Sam Mitchell and his staff will suddenly install new schemes.

The game's intangibles such as toughness and playing with urgency aren't functions of teaching.

"Plain and simple, we're not carrying out our defensive assignments," Bosh said. "There's no science about it.

"We can't trade buckets. When it's time to lock up, we have to make stops.

"The playoffs are about making stops."

The rotation is pretty much set with Bosh, Rasho Nesterovic, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and T.J. Ford starting and being asked to play extended minutes.

Carlos Delfino has emerged as the first guy off the bench as part of a four-player reserve crew that features Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono.

While Raptor apologists talk glowingly about the team's depth, the second unit produced the grand total of zero second-half points in Saturday's 99-90 loss to the New Jersey Nets.

In the team's most recent win, the bench stepped up with the paltry sum of seven points last Monday in Charlotte.

Eventually, the second unit will be asked to win games.

At one game under .500, the Raptors are two games ahead of the eighth-seeded Atlanta Hawks and one back of the Philadelphia 76ers for the sixth seed.

The fifth-seeded Washington Wizards have been playing well of late and are staring at a possible post-season matchup with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The one saving grace for the Raptors is their schedule. Besides Milwaukee, the pitiful Miami Heat and the Nets, whose flickering playoff hopes should be extinguished by Friday's tip, represent the home portion.

Three wins gives the Raptors a 41-41 season, the sixth seed and a first-round series with the Orlando Magic, one of the few teams Toronto actually matches up against quite nicely.


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