No blame in numbers game

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Riding the high of a 3-0 start, not even the mention of that dirty word "rebounding" can get a rise out of Sam Mitchell these days.

Sure, the team was hearing about the one major flaw in its play thus far -- it ranks dead last in the league in rebounding -- from Mitchell and his coaching staff yesterday on its first day back at practice, but even Mitchell is having a problem being too hard on his team

"Obviously the guys feel good," Mitchell began. "We got some work done today. We still have a lot to clean up. Our rebounding is something we continue to talk about. Something we have to get better at."

The reason Mitchell wasn't going too hard on his rebounding demands is that when he looked past the naked numbers, it really had not hurt the club.

Through three games the Raps have been outrebounded 132-95. On the offensive glass, the numbers are even worse -- 49-19.

But Mitchell contends that the numbers can lie and they do in this case. While he doesn't point this out to his team, he did share it with a handful of reporters yesterday.

"The weird thing about it is we get them when we have to go get them," he said. "In the second half we have rebounded when we had to rebound. You look at the Milwaukee game, we got every big rebound we needed to get. That last rebound Jamario got (with the Raptors protecting a two-point lead with 11 seconds left), you look at that on tape, that was a tough rebound to get. He came over the top of a couple of people."

In the season opener in Philadelphia, the Sixers owned the glass in the first 12 minutes, outrebounding the Raps 22-5. Even that lopsided margin wasn't all that concerning for Mitchell.

Mitchell says the numbers get skewed a little, using as an example Philadelphia centre Sam Dalembert, who had nine of those first-quarter boards.

MISLEADING NUMBERS

"Dalembert three or four times got his own ball so sometimes those stats can be misleading. You look at it from the second quarter on and we were pretty much even. A couple of times with Dalembert, he was tipping the ball to himself."

Of course these aren't revelations he shares with his team. "I tell them: 'Look, we're getting killed on the boards, you all have to rebound.' "

The other supposed weakness of this club is how its shooting guards and small forwards match up against the rest of the league. On paper and reputation, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, along with Joey Graham and Jason Kapono, aren't much of a match for a league where the majority of offence comes from these two positions.

But Mitchell says he couldn't be prouder of this quartet which has been getting it done each time out so far. Parker and Bargnani stood out in the win against Golden State on Friday. Moon was solid at both ends of the floor in the win over Milwaukee.

"I'm just proud of how our guys have competed," Mitchell said. "Everyone is concerned about our 2's and 3's, but those guys have just gone out and competed."

Coming into the season, Mitchell had a pretty good idea of what he was going to get from Chris Bosh, Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon on most nights. But three games in, it is the complementary pieces that have risen to the occasion and made the difference.

The Raptors have another day of practise today in preparation for what should be the toughest test of the season thus far, when the Detroit Pistons come to town tomorrow.


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